Kansas City partners with community in responding to COVID-19 crisis

Humana’s Bold Goal team in Kansas City was busy before COVID-19 became a threat, now its partnerships are ramping up along with efforts to get support to residents who need it most.

Our dedicated team works with nonprofit organizations, government and business leaders, as well as physicians, clinicians and hospital systems to convene and co-create solutions addressing social determinants and health related social community-specific needs that are both unique to their community and to the Bold Goal such as loneliness, social isolation and food insecurity.

These needs became acute in recent weeks as our members found themselves even more isolated and some without income they depended on.

Knowing this, Humana issued a pledge to get financial support infused into the community. Working with local government and business leaders Humana committed $50,000 to COVID-19 relief efforts and asked other businesses to match the donation to reach those most in need during this crisis.

In Kansas City, the community had already established a strategic approach to working with businesses in putting donated funds to their best use. Earlier this month, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation partnered with United Way of Greater Kansas City, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Greater Kansas City, and Mid-America Regional Council to create the Kansas City Regional COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to address the needs of the Kansas City region’s most vulnerable communities affected by the pandemic. The fund is in the process of making the first round of rapid response grants.

Humana’s contribution is among the more than $13 million raised by local businesses within the region dedicated to the response fund, with still more businesses rising to aid the challenge daily. To date, 2.6 million has been given to support community needs which include $520,000 for housing (rent, mortgage, and utilities), $493,300 for food insecurity, $580,000 for access to health care, $1,072,500 for other critical human services.

But working with the Fund isn’t all that’s keeping Erica Anderson, Bold Goal Market Development Advisor for Kansas City, busy. She and her community partners are meeting daily to assess what can be done together.

“We’re working with the YMCA,” she said. “Fourteen locations had to close their doors, but six locations stayed open and are caring for children 5 or older for essential workers. We’re supporting those six locations and we helped them to buy 20 non-touch forehead thermometers so they could check kids before they come into the building. They were also in need of supplies to stay open so we helped with that.”

Ordinarily, when school is out for summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), also known as the Summer Meals Program, provides federal funds to states who reimburse programs that distribute healthy meals to kids and teens. Anderson said when Kansas and Missouri schools closed, partners across both state lines rallied to support the expanded Summer Meals programs and feed adults and kids in the process. One of these partners is Harvesters—The Community Food Network.

With schools closed for the rest of the year, Harvesters’ network is working to help fill that gap and feed families and children through other distribution models. Harvesters and its partners have distributed more than four million pounds of food through food pantries, meal sites and produce distributions over the last three weeks. This represents an increase of nearly one million pounds above normal.

Through a partnership with Harvesters—The Community Food Network, Humana-owned Partners in Primary Care centers  are disseminating emergency meal kits for their patients who need food now, as clinicians are seeing the need through screenings elevated in recent weeks.

Among the most important immediate needs, Anderson said, was for aid for low-income pregnant women.

“There is a fairly large population of women getting ready to have children, they’re struggling and don’t have the ability to get what they need to even prepare for their child,” she said. “Stores are closed or don’t have enough formula or diapers, even if there wasn’t a lack of resources.”

Vibrant Beginnings, a local healthcare provider, worked with Humana and its Bold Goal partners to provide six months of baby supplies for new moms along with a Finnbin box that serves as a portable, safe bassinet for the first six months of an infant’s life. So far, Vibrant Beginnings distributed 78 kits and will continue to review needs as the crisis continues.

Regional President Jeremy Gaskill said that with a large military population in the Kansas City area who are Humana members, it was imperative to get them emotional support during this time. Humana is working with The Battle Within and the national VFW organization  and the VA to provide online sessions and speakers who can share tips with these first responders and veterans to cope with the stress they may be facing. The first, free virtual session is taking place April 20. Those who need additional support will be provided six free mental health sessions with licensed therapists though The Battle Within and their Behavioral Telehealth program.

“For us, in the Kansas City region, we were already engaged in many conversations with partners, and then COVID-19 happens and it is an all-out effort to bring support together and pivot to solve the community health and social needs we’re focused on year-round,” Gaskill said.

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