FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Glendon Zernicke, Communications Coordinator, Wabanaki Public Health
Lisa Sockabasin, Director, Wabanaki Public Health
Dept. of Health and Human Services awards $1 million for COVID-19 vaccine access in Maine
Maine’s indigenous and immigrant communities collaborate on COVID-19 vaccine outreach
8/12/2021. Bangor, ME – The US Department of Health and Human Services has awarded Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness (WPHW), Maine Access Immigrant Network (MAIN), New Mainers Public Health Initiative (NMPHI), Maine Community Integration (MCI), and Gateway Community Services Maine a $1 million grant to support local community-based workforce with the goal of increasing COVID-19 vaccine access. This novel partnership between Maine’s indigenous and immigrant communities builds a unique model of service delivery and direct outreach into Maine’s undervaccinated and medically underserved communities.
“We are excited for this opportunity as it is the first time that our organization will formally partner with one of Maine’s Indigenous community organizations. I believe that by combining our strengths and leveraging our statewide networks, we can strengthen our team’s COVID-19 outreach and education efforts in the community to ensure our neighbors’ safety and wellbeing and, ultimately, halt further spread of this virus in our community,” said Mohamud Barre, MAIN Executive Director.
Services supported by the grant award include face-to-face vaccine educational outreach, vaccine appointment assistance, and transportation assistance getting to a vaccination site. Additionally, the program intends to address persistent health disparities by offering support and resources to vulnerable communities, including racial and ethnic minority groups and individuals living in areas of high social vulnerability.
Lisa Sockabasin, Director of Wabanaki Public Health remarked on the partnership, “we know how to build systems that reach and protect our communities. Historically, government systems were not meant to serve indigenous communities or other people of color; often, the systems were set up to harm. We have had to work around that systemic legacy, and have done so through relationships – including building strong partnerships with our funders and holding the belief that our experience can help other vulnerable communities in Maine.”
“During the height of the pandemic, we reached out and offered help to other communities of color, sharing supplies, and developing opportunities for community-based organizations serving communities of color, in developing their own systems to access the resources available to serve their community. We understand the struggle. Together, we are stronger and can learn from each other,” added Sockabasin.
Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness is the grant administrator and will assist in planning and execution of the work plan.
Fowsia Musse, Executive Director of Maine Community Integration, noted “both the Somali community and the Wabanaki community employ shared restorative model strategies, which means that many of our goals and visions will be on the same page. Additionally, Wabanaki families are matriarchal, which means women-led. Maine Community Integration also is woman-led. This will be a wonderful opportunity for both communities and groups.”
COVID-19 has disproportionately affected racial and ethnic minority groups and individuals who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. A wide range of sociodemographic risk factors, including socioeconomic status, racial and ethnic minority status, income, household composition, and environmental factors, are significantly associated with COVID-19 incidence and mortality.
“When we learned that Maine had one of the worst racial disparities in COVID-19 cases in the nation, we realized action was needed. We knew we had the ability to help and share our experiences and resources to combat this,” said Ralph Cammack, Manager of WPHW Infectious Disease Division.
WPHW has been at the forefront of COVID-19 response efforts in Maine’s indigenous community and has assisted in leading a successful COVID-19 vaccination education and response program. They will draw on their experience in the Wabanaki community to lead the outreach effort in other minority communities in the state.
According to Abdulkerim Said, Executive Director of the partner organization New Mainers Public Health Initiatives. “This grant gives us the opportunity to counter the myths and conspiracy theories that cause vaccine hesitancy in our refugee and immigrant population – in particular, in our youth.”
The grant was awarded on July 31, 2021 for programming through July 20, 2022.
About Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness
Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness (WPHW) provides community-driven, culturally centered public health and social services to all Wabanaki communities and people while honoring Wabanaki cultural knowledge, cultivating innovation, and fostering collaboration. Our values include: inclusivity, balance, and cultural centeredness. Wabanaki traditions, language, and culture guide our approach and describe the ways we live in harmony with each other and the land we collectively share. To learn more, please visit www.wabanakiphw.org
About Maine Access Immigrant Network
Maine Access Immigrant Network (MAIN): Founded by well-respected Somali-American community leader, Mohamud Barre, MAIN bridges access to health and social services for immigrants and refugees in Portland. The organization works to build a stronger multicultural community and to address refugee health literacy, health care enrollment, and coordination of health care benefits and non-clinical care. MAIN provides resource and referral information that is culturally and linguistically appropriate in English, Arabic, Somali, and French to ensure equal access to programs and services for new Mainers from Africa and the Middle East. Created in 2002 and expanded over time, MAIN established a CHW program seven years ago staffed with trained community members who have been battling COVID-19 with their communities. They maintain the ability to quickly hire and train new staff or to expand staffing hours for part-time individuals if awarded. As a community organization, staff at MAIN are largely made up of members of the communities served with a focus on diversity to best serve the immigrant/refugee population. Key Contact Information: Mohamud Barre, 207-233-6014, firstname.lastname@example.org. Mohamud will maintain overall responsibility for all activities related to MAIN’s subaward.
About Maine Community Integration
Maine Community Integration (MCI): MCI is committed to integrating New Mainers into their communities while respecting and uplifting their diverse cultures, identities, and traditions. MCI serves the interests of both immigrant and local communities by bridging gaps in mutual understanding to create social and systemic change. With an established and trained CHW staff, MCI has been integrated into community efforts surrounding COVID-19 and maintains the ability to increase part-time hours of workers or to hire and onboard new staff members in an expedited manner if awarded this grant. They anticipate utilizing the funds to increase the hours of their already trained CHW workers to allow for further community outreach with already established and trusted individuals. Key Contact Information: Fowsia Musse, 207-576-6329, email@example.com. Fowsia will maintain overall responsibility for all activities related to MCI’s subaward.
About New Mainers Public Health Initiative
New Mainers Public Health Initiative (NMPHI): NMPHI aims to empower, inform, and educate new Mainers about preventive health measures through developing the capacity to mobilize community partnerships in identifying and solving health problems in order to bridge the gap in health care service delivery and decrease health disparities. NMPHI works with underserved demographics by providing several services including a CHW program and has been at the forefront of COVID-19 testing and education in refugee/immigrant communities in Lewiston throughout the pandemic. As a well-established organization with trained CHWs from the community served, NMPHI is able to hire and train or expand hours of part-time staff as needed. Key Contact Information: Abdulkerim Said, 207-891-9888, firstname.lastname@example.org. Abdulkerim will maintain overall responsibility for all activities related to NMPHI’s subaward.
About Gateway Community Services Maine
Gateway Community Services Maine (GCSM): GCSM seeks to encourage, support, and build healthy connections within oneself and others in order to promote vibrancy and well-being, along with welcoming communities where all people feel accepted, valued, and have a sense of belonging. GCSM provides community building, civic engagement, and wellness services targeted to, and led by, the New Mainer immigrant, refugee, asylee, and asylum-seeking populations. With four full-time CHWs, and two community resource coordinators, GCSM is looking to invest further in their community health work which has already planned and hosted several vaccine clinics in both Portland and Lewiston, prioritizing outreach to the new Mainer community. Key Contact Information: Kate Fahey, 978-761-4979, email@example.com. Kate will maintain overall responsibility for all activities related to GCSM’s subaward.