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OHA partners with dozens more organizations in CO, around the state to expand community public health efforts

(Update: adding video and comment from OHA and CO Disability Support Network)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Central Oregon Disability Support Network, a special needs support organization in Central Oregon, is among 44 recent recipients of new Oregon Health Authority Public Health Equity Grants.

Organizations who are awarded grant money will be used to build community-driven, culturally and linguistically responsive public health services. CODSN will be using the funding to focus on modernization projects, according to OHA.

Dolly England, manager of the health authority's Community Engagement Program, said, "OHA has a goal of eliminating health inequities by 2030. And that's a lofty goal. And we know we can't do it by ourselves. So this grant is an opportunity for us to distribute resources in the way of money to the community, so that they can tell us the work that needs to happen in their community.”

In 2023, the Oregon Legislature approved over $16 million to support community based organizations that will go into the Public Health Equity Grant Awardees will join the existing 150 organizations who received funding in the first round from OHA in 2022. 

England said, “We prioritized organizations that were serving the disability community, as well as organizations serving rural communities. And the reason we prioritized those two populations is because we realized in our first round of funding that these were parts of the state and communities within the state that we didn't feel like we invested enough in.”

CODSN received funding from the grant in the first cohort in 2022. They were able to develop an emergency preparedness curriculum and created emergency test kits for those with disabilities.

Dianne Hansen, executive director of CODSN, said, "We probably wouldn't have been able to do the project without the funding, to be honest. You know, once we got into it, the project kind of grew, and as people asked us to come and train their teams and that kind of stuff, but we wouldn't have probably even started the project without the funding from the Oregon Health Authority."

In regard to the impact the funding has had on communities, said "We have thousands and thousands and thousands of views from all over the United States. We've had state and local agencies, as well as FEMA reach out to us and ask for some of the resources that we created through this program. So the impact was much larger than we ever anticipated."

In this round of grant awards, there are two organizations in Central Oregon set to receive funds -- Bend's Abilitree and Gender Hive. Abilitree's goal is to enhance safety and provide the tools and knowledge of how to respond to an emergency for people with disabilities. Gender Hive's goal is to improve access to resources in health care and create community connection for trans and non-binary folks.

England said, “They're telling us what they think the work should be within their community. And I think that when you listen to communities, they will always tell you what they need, and so that's what we're trying to do.”

Public health agencies also are receiving grant funding from OHA, including Deschutes County, with a goal to be more inclusive of those with disabilities. The agency essentially acts as a liaison between organizations and the state, to achieve common goals, providing technical assistance nonprofit management help and teaching grant-writing.

Here's OHA's recent news release on the community-based public health effort:

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division has awarded funding to 44 new community-based organizations (CBOs) to support public health equity-based work in their communities.

In 2023, the Oregon Legislature approved about $16.95 million to support the CBO grants. The funding will also support training and technical assistance. The new grant recipients will join the existing 150 organizations currently funded by OHA Public Health Equity grants.

The OHA Public Health Division recognizes the essential role that CBOs, including faith-based organizations and community groups, play in guiding and supporting culturally and linguistically responsive public health work, in partnership with local and state public health agencies. The new funding opportunity aims to keep health equity and community priorities at the forefront of public health work.

The selection process of grantees in this second cohort prioritized specific geographic locations and priority populations to increase the reach of funds across the state. As a result, grant awardees represent organizations located in rural communities; urban communities with service gaps; organizations that address the public health concerns and priorities of people who live with disabilities; and organizations serving communities at the intersection of multiple priority populations.

CBOs applied for and were awarded funds to develop work that best addresses the needs of the community within one or more of the following program areas:

  • Climate adaptation.
  • Communicable disease prevention.
  • Public health emergency preparedness.

The Public Health Division works in partnership with CBOs on long-term public health efforts. CBOs will focus on work aligned with their communities’ priorities in one or more of the following categories of funding:

  • Health education and communication.
  • Identifying and assessing community priorities.
  • Supporting prevention activities.
  • Policy development.

Dolly England, the Public Health Division’s Community Engagement Program manager, said the 44 CBOs receiving grants offered impressive approaches to ending health inequities in Oregon.

“It’s clear these CBOs know their communities well, and where the greatest needs exist,” England said. “We look forward to working closely with them to ensure everyone in the communities they serve has equitable access to essential public health services.

For more information about the OHA Public Health Division or to see a full list of the Public Health Equity grant awardees, please visit OHA’s CBO funding web page here.

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Matthew Draxton

Matthew Draxton is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Matthew here.


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