Excellus BlueCross BlueShield awards grants to address maternal health disparities

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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield awards grants

to address maternal health disparities


SYRACUSE, NY – Excellus BlueCross BlueShield today announced the first round of recipients of Member and Community Health Improvement (MACHI) grants to address severe maternal morbidity (SMM) and related health equity issues in upstate New York. Eight nonprofit organizations in the health plan’s 39-county service area will share $1 million in grant funding over the next three years.


Among the recipients, Contact Community Services in Syracuse will receive grant funding for the expansion of its 24/7 telephonic perinatal and postpartum maternal mental health follow-up program. The project will serve pregnant and parenting women in Onondaga County.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines SMM as “unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short- or long-term consequences to a woman’s health.” As many as 60,000 Americans each year experience maternal morbidity, including 650 to 750 deaths, according to The Commonwealth Fund. Black, Latina, and Asian women have higher rates of SMM than white women, regardless of age or type of health insurance, according to a recent study of racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health issued by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).


“We have an opportunity and a responsibility to confront the nation’s crisis in maternal health disparities,” says Gina Cuyler, MD, Excellus BCBS vice president of health equity and community investments. “With this first installment of award funding, community organizations will have greater capabilities to support safe pregnancies and childbirth, eliminate pregnancy-related health disparities, and improve health outcomes for new mothers and babies.”


The BCBSA study also revealed that preexisting health conditions going into delivery, such as hypertension, diabetes, or asthma, strongly correlate with higher SMM and worse pregnancy complications, increasing the likelihood of a risky delivery or challenges postpartum. While women ages 35-44 across all populations were identified as most likely to have an SMM event, the study found that Black women in this age range have a 66% higher rate of SMM and are more likely to suffer pregnancy-related complications than white women.


“Contact Community Services is delighted to be partnering with Excellus on this important work. Together we can improve health of mothers and children in our community and offer them hope for a bright future,” says Antara Mitra, executive director, Contact Community Services.


Seven other nonprofit organizations will receive Excellus BCBS maternal health MACHI funding, including: Child & Family Resource Center Inc. (Rochester), Gerard Place (Buffalo), Integrated Community Alternatives Network (Utica), Jericho Road Community Health Center (Buffalo), Mohawk Valley Health System (Utica), Mothers & Babies Perinatal Network (Binghamton), and Mount Hope Family Center (Rochester).


“The grants we announced today will provide needed funding to organizations that are working to address these issues,” says Cuyler.   

Earlier this year, Excellus BCBS invited organizations to apply for MACHI grants to fund programs to eliminate racial, health and geographical disparities, and that support of the National Maternal Health Equity Strategy endorsed by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield operates in 39 upstate New York counties. The health plan’s corporate giving follows all applicable laws and regulations and does not support funding organizations that conflict with its corporate mission, goals, policies or products.




Contact Community Services is a multi-faceted organization that supports the social, emotional, behavioral and mental health of children, youth and adults. It delivers this support through three broad program areas: Crisis Services, School Services and Training & Education. Contact provides a free, confidential 24-hour, 7-day a week counseling, suicide and crisis hotline and referral service for individuals looking for information on health and human services agencies through 988, 211 and a local Contact Hotline. The organization also supports academic achievement by addressing barriers to learning. Contact provides evidence-based school programs for social and emotional learning and substance abuse awareness and prevention programs. Additionally, Contact provides suicide prevention and mental health training to community organizations, business and school districts all free of charge throughout CNY. Contact is proud of its work helping to create a suicide-safer community and reduce barriers associated with mental health challenges.



Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit ExcellusBCBS.com.

Post Date

Oct 18th 2022