Excellus BCBS Announces 2023 Health Equity Innovation Award Recipients

Posted on November 22, 2023

Excellus BCBS logo

SYRACUSE, NY – Excellus BlueCross BlueShield announced today the recipients of its 2023 Health Equity Innovation Awards. The awards represent more than $520,000 in financial support for community programs that address racial and ethnic health disparities across the Health Plan’s upstate New York service area.

“At Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, our mission is to help people lead heathier more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable healthcare.  We’re committed to community partnerships and using our resources to support initiatives that directly target health disparities, promote access to care, and address the underlying social determinants of health, to help ensure everyone can reach their full potential,” said Simone E. Edwards, DrPH, MPH, Excellus BCBS’s vice president health equity and community investments.

Earlier this year, Excellus BCBS invited organizations to apply for awards of up to $30,000 each to help fund initiatives, programs, and research that specifically target the root causes of health inequities, with a focus on addressing structural racism. Award categories include, but were not limited to, improving the community’s physical and mental health, reducing social disparities in health care, and ensuring access to health care services.

Excellus BCBS’s funding will support 20 nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organizations across the Central New York, Rochester, Utica/North Country, and Southern Tier regions. With more than 180 applicants, a comprehensive review process included input from individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences to assess each proposal. Grant recipients were selected based on clear, defined goals and measurable results for reducing health disparities and improving health equity.

In the Central New York region, $162,500 is being awarded to support the following seven initiatives:

  • Le Moyne College - Dolphins Spreading Healthy Optimistic Positive Experience (HOPE): Program will utilize a peer-based health promotion approach to reach high school students who are at risk for mental health issues and suicide.
  • Cayuga Counseling Services, Inc.: Program will expand the community’s comprehensive collaborative efforts and create an online database which includes the Child Advocacy Center, the Rape-Crisis Center, the Sexual and Physical Abuse MDT, the Child Fatality Review Team and Runaway/Homeless Youth Taskforce, and the Cayuga County Dually Diagnosed Taskforce.
  • Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service (SPCS) of Tompkins County - LGBTQIA+
    Crisis Line:
    Program will support increasing outreach to those in the LGBTQIA+ community and will formalize training for crisis counselors ensuring they are best equipped to support those in need.
  • The Upstate Foundation, Inc. - Native American Preterm Program: Program will support the implementation of a culturally competent approach to decrease the high preterm birth rate in Native American women in Central New York by increasing access to early and sustained prenatal care, with an emphasis on cultural awareness and sensitivity.
  • On Point for College - Creating Safe Spaces: Program will support On Point’s Creating Safe Spaces project that will facilitate a culture/environment of openness, inclusion, and affirmation, regardless of a student’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or mental health status.
  • Joseph's House for Women, Inc. - A Home for a Healthier Future: Program will support Joseph House enhanced programming in case management, a life skills program, counseling, childcare, and 24-hour staffing.
  • Seven Valleys Health Coalition - Postpartum Doula Support in Rural Communities: Program will support postpartum doula program research and development, the training of local postpartum doulas, and doula reimbursement for community members. Postpartum doulas will provide support and knowledge, not only to those recently pregnant, but also their families, helping to work through the new season of life that comes with the birth of a child.

For the latest information on the health plan’s community investments and partnerships, members, providers and employers are encouraged to visit, ExcellusBCBS.com/community.

# # #

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 4,200 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.

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