The University of Vermont Medical Center has awarded $350,000 in grants for community programs that address homelessness, substance abuse, mental health issues, children’s nutritional needs, chronic medical conditions, and other physical and socioeconomic barriers to overall good health.

The program grants are part of $930,000 in spending through the Community Health Investment Fund for the 2019 fiscal year. The fund targets priority areas identified by the medical center’s Community Health Needs Assessment to improve the lives of people in Chittenden and Grand Isle counties. The Community Health Needs Assessment, which is updated every three years, is created with extensive community input and includes a review of health data and public opinions covering a wide range of topics. For the most recent assessment, completed in 2016, 1,600 people were surveyed and focus groups and discussions were held with community members and leaders. 

The 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment identified the following areas as needing the most attention: affordable housing; economic opportunities; early childhood and family supports; access to healthy food; chronic medical conditions; healthy aging; mental health; oral health; sexually transmitted infections and teen births; and substance abuse.

“We know that medical care is a small portion of a person’s health,” says Julie Cole, senior community benefits strategist for UVM Medical Center. “We’re supporting efforts in the community that impact the whole person.”

Burlington Housing Authority received $50,000 to support staffing for its Housing Retention Program, which helps identify the underlying causes of clients missing rent payments and losing their places to live and intervene before those outcomes occur.

Another $50,000 grant will allow Special Olympics Vermont to launch a pilot program for its participants with intellectual disabilities who haven’t addressed ongoing health issues or are at high risk for chronic diseases. The Healthy Communities program will expand health screenings before and during events, coordinate assistance with appointments and treatment, and track athletes’ progress with care providers, says Sarah Lange, health programs manager for Special Olympics Vermont. 

“We often see in these screenings that the same athletes come back year after year with the same unaddressed health issues.”

The other six organizations that recently received funding for their programs are the Boys & Girls Club, the Howard Center, Pathways Vermont, Centerpoint Adolescent Treatment Services/NFI Vermont, KidSafe Collaborative, and ANEW Place. 

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