CHICAGO — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) today announced it has distributed $480,000 in funding to help organizations around the state increase access to immunizations.
BCBSIL is providing grants between $20,000 and $50,000 to 12 organizations with aligned missions to increase the rates of immunizations as part of the BCBSIL Care Van® Immunization Initiative. The BCBSIL Care Van program is celebrating it’s 30th year of providing access to immunizations and other health services in Illinois. BCBSIL is reminding Illinoisans not to put off needed health screenings and preventive services, like immunizations, through the Wellness Can’t Wait campaign. A recent Health of America report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association estimates children nationwide will have missed nearly 9 million MMR, DTaP and polio vaccinations this year due to COVID-19.
“Immunizations are a building block for community health and providing people with easy, free access has been a priority for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois for decades,” said Harmony Harrington, vice president community and government relations, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. “During the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen the rate of immunizations decline, just at a time when it is more important than ever for people to keep themselves healthy. Through this effort, we’re looking to empower and extend the reach of others focused on the same goal: increasing access to immunizations to improve community health.”
Organizations receiving funding include:
- Albertsons*, serving Peoria, Springfield, Bloomington and Decatur
- Aunt Martha’s, serving Joliet, Aurora, Kankakee and Rockford
- Bi-County Health Department, serving Franklin and Williamson counties
- Chicago Family Health Center, serving Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood
- Crossing Health Care, serving Decatur
- Inner- City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), serving Chicago
- Lawndale Christian Health Center, serving Chicago
- Sinai Health System, serving Chicago
- SIHF Healthcare, serving Saint Clair County
- SIU Center for Family Medicine, serving Springfield and Decatur
- Southern Seven Health Department, serving Alexander, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski and Union counties
- Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare, serving Chicago and Skokie
Each organization receiving funding has an existing program that provides immunizations to people whether or not they have health insurance. The awardees can use the grant to maximize the reach of their programs by doing things such as hiring a nurse, purchasing additional vaccines or increasing their marketing to make more people aware of when and where they are offering services.
The Care Van Immunization Initiative is one of the ways BCBSIL is reinvesting payments from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) for providing quality care to Medicaid Members. Other ways we’re using the payments to enhance community health include:
- Expanding the telemedicine infrastructure and capabilities of BCBSIL contracted Community Mental Health Centers and Substance Use Recovery Providers through a grant program.
- Providers used the funds to purchase computers, tablets, telecom software, expand their WIFI capabilities and more.
- Reducing impacts of social determinants of health for members under behavioral health treatment by allowing care coordinators to leverage pilot funding to cover needs such as housing applications, state ID costs, toiletries, non-covered transportation expenses that may not be available from non-profit organizations with increased demands for more limited funding.
- Supporting the American Diabetes Association® (ADA) virtual diabetes camp and providing tablets to help children ages 5-17 attend camp virtually during the COVID-19 lockdown.
- Supporting Home Delivered Meals with Mile Square (FQHC) to BCBSIL Medicaid members and their families.
- Providing more than 2,000 healthy meal kits to members needing meal assistance in Aurora, Chicago and Rockford, including recipes and nutrition tips, in partnership with the ADA and Top Box Foods.
- Creating a youth-focused health literacy and intervention program aimed at empowering young people to engage in preventive and protective health behaviors and educating them on how to navigate the health care system as well as careers in health care.
“COVID-19 has created struggles for so many but is also a time of opportunity for us to find creative ways to help our members and the greater community,” said Nancy Wohlhart, BCBSIL’s vice-president of Illinois Medicaid. “We’ve been able to look at how we can create really impactful, quick-turn programs that we believe will create lasting benefits for people across Illinois.”
“As COVID-19 began to show its devastating impact on communities across Illinois, we worked with all of our health plans to stimulate investment in services to fill the gaps in care that people needed during this unprecedented time,” said Theresa Eagleson, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. “We’re glad to see this money being put to good use during the public health emergency in ways that support our customers and the communities in which they live. This is just one example of the good work being done by our health plans to meet our customers’ needs.”