Lakeland Gets $1.2-M Grant to Establish Center for Better Health in BH

Real tangible help is on the way to Benton Harbor to help reduce the racial disparities stemming from the current pandemic thanks to a $1.2-million grant to establish The Center for Better Health on Main Street in the city.

The Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities has awarded Spectrum Health Lakeland a $1.2 million grant on behalf of the Rapid Response Initiative funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The grant will support a rapid response to COVID-19 disparities experienced by residents of Benton Harbor.

The Center for Better Health, located at 100 W. Main Street in Benton Harbor, will provide flu vaccinations, mental health services, legal and social services navigation support, as well as financial advocate and insurance marketplace enrollment services. The grant will also support the purchase and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 testing, hotspots to support the virtual learning needs of Benton Harbor High School students, and culturally resonate communications that reinforce key public health messages such as the importance of wearing masks, hand hygiene, social distancing, and contact tracing.

The center, which will be operated in collaboration with the Berrien County Health Department and InterCare Community Health Network, will open next Monday, November 2nd and complete its rapid response by December 30, 2020. Drive up COVID-19 testing will begin on Friday, November 6th in the parking lot at Benton Harbor High School.

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Dr. Lynn Todman, PhD, Vice President of Health Equity at Spectrum Health Lakeland, says,  “While Black residents only make up 15-percent of Michigan’s population, they represented a staggering 29.4-percent of the cases and 40.7-percent of the deaths in the early days of tracking COVID-19 data based on race,” and adds, “In the past two weeks of available data, the state has seen significant progress in limiting the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, with Black residents accounting for 8.2-percent of cases and 9.9-percent of deaths. This award will enable Lakeland to build on this progress by providing a rapid response to COVID-19 related needs in the Benton Harbor community.”

Nicki Britten, Health Officer for the Berrien County Health Department, says, “While COVID-19 has been a focus for all of us during this pandemic, we know that it is also important to take the holistic needs of individuals into account to promote optimal health,” and adds, “We are pleased to partner with Spectrum Health Lakeland on this effort to provide additional health services to our community, as well as COVID-19 testing, and continue addressing health inequalities and limit further impact of COVID-19 in our community.”

Velma Hendershott, President & CEO of the InterCare Community Health Network, says, “We know the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected our minority communities and we look forward to partnering with Spectrum Health Lakeland as we work to enhance the health of the Benton Harbor community,” adding, “As we all continue to navigate these challenging times, having COVID-19 testing services more readily available will play a key role in preventing further spread of the disease.”

Dr. Renee B. Canady, PhD, MPA, Chief Operating Officer, MPHI, says, “I commend Spectrum Health Lakeland and the Berrien County Health Department for their important work and commitment to efforts that address health disparities, specifically those related to COVID-19,” and concludes, “All of us at MPHI are grateful for the dedicated leadership in supporting the health and well-being of our communities as we battle the COVID pandemic together.”