Community Based Organizations and COVID-19

Community Based Organizations and COVID‑19

The health system in the United States is often thought of in terms hospitals and clinics providing healthcare services to individuals. However, the U.S. health system also includes multiple networks of Community Based Organizations (CBOs) providing essential services that address population health and the social drivers of wellbeing that must be included in any effort to bolster the reach and efficacy of the system as a whole.

Even prior to COVID-19, community-based non-profits addressing issues like domestic violence, housing, transportation needs, and other social issues have been chronically underfunded, and often operate primarily on inconsistent and unstable government grants to support their work. The emergence of COVID-19 has caused spikes in need in many of the areas addressed by these organizations. For example, during the pandemic we have seeing rising calls to domestic violence service providers and suicide hotlines, increases in gun violence, and challenges to detecting child abuse across the country. Traditional services related to food and housing are complicated by the layer of social distancing and infection control requiring novel solutions.

Community Based Organization Needs During COVID-19

Now more than ever, harnessing the local power of community-based organizations is critical to controlling infectious spread of COVID-19 and addressing the health consequences related to social distancing, soaring unemployment, and decades of racial inequity. CBOs serve critical roles in in our health system and communities by:

  • Executing pandemic specific services
    • Performing case investigation and contact tracing, especially in traditionally marginalized communities that may not trust a public health or government-sponsored entity
    • Supporting Corona Virus surveillance testing across various contexts to ascertain positivity rates among high-risk populations
    • Supporting individuals and families to meet needs while isolated or quarantined, including childcare, housing, income replacement, food, and social support
    • Promoting vaccination programs for current vaccines (such as pneumonia and flu) to lower the burden of disease and prepare for COVID-19 vaccine campaigns (when a vaccine is ready)
  • Providing communication and coordination
    • Advocating for communities when working with state and local government officials for targeted and blanket public health orders
    • Messaging to and educating communities about ever-changing guidelines and recommendations
    • Ensuring that health education is culturally competent and recognizes a range of health literacy
    • Interfacing with other government agencies including Medicaid, behavioral health, justice systems, and others
    • Ensuring clear communication among all sectors of the healthcare delivery system
  • Addressing community needs and equity issues
    • Advocating for underserved communities and helping bring infection control resources to those communities hardest hit by COVID-19
    • Assembling all stakeholders along the continuum of care, assessing capacity, and developing outreach to communities and support systems to bolster traditional healthcare services
    • Ensuring that disadvantaged individuals such as the uninsured, homeless, and those with mental illness have equitable access to the resources they need to be safe
    • Addressing the burgeoning opioid crisis under COVID-19
    • Focusing on rising cases of domestic violence, suicide, and other types of violence related to COVID-19 and associated quarantine orders
    • Addressing existing and increasing housing and food insecurity based on the economic impacts of the pandemic and the policy response to the pandemic

Critical Needs of Community Based Organizations

HMA consultants bring a diversity of expertise and experience to our clients. Our experts have had long and distinguished careers with CBOs; local, state and federal government; and at nonprofits, foundations, and a variety of health and social services settings. We understand the essential role that CBOs serve in mitigating the effects of the pandemic for marginalized and underserved communities.

Long before COVID-19, HMA and HMA Community Strategies worked with CBOs across the country to build healthy communities. We identify areas where healthcare and social needs intersect and create connections between healthcare and community organizations. HMA understands the unique dynamics of CBO engagement and what it takes to create successful healthcare partnerships. Now more than ever, CBOs will be critical to how we successfully navigate this unprecedented time. HMA can help you identify potential funding options, develop key partnerships with public health and healthcare providers, and interface with state and county agencies. We look forward to learning more about your community and how we can help these community based organization needs.

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