FARMINGTON — The Healthy Community Coalition of Greater Franklin County and associated partners will use a $1 million federal grant to help educate people about the COVID-19 vaccine and increase vaccination efforts in five counties.

Jennifer McCormack is the executive director of the Health Community Coalition of the Greater Franklin County area. Submitted photo

The project’s target population includes the unvaccinated in the service areas of Franklin, Androscoggin and Oxford counties, and bordering towns in Kennebec and Somerset counties, according to Jennifer McCormack, executive director of the Healthy Community Coalition in Farmington.

“It is a whole western district health approach,” McCormack said.

There will be a special focus on individuals with preexisting conditions, the elderly, adolescents, young adults, members of faith-based communities and individuals working in occupations that do not allow them to leave work to be vaccinated or be educated on the benefits of vaccination, according to a news release.

“We are really going to use outreach workers to help educate individuals,” McCormack said.

The government wants people in the communities who people trust, such as paramedics and others, to help educate people who may be reluctant to get the vaccine, she said.

Most of the grant funds will be used for education and assistance to help people understand the vaccine, and to increase the number of vaccine clinics in the region.

Healthy Community Coalition of Greater Franklin County, an affiliate of Franklin Community Health Network and a member of the MaineHealth family, was awarded the one-year grant to fund Healthy Community Coalition’s Hometowns Partnership. The U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act grant is one of 127 nationwide awards to support trusted voices in local communities in sharing information about vaccines, building vaccine confidence, and addressing barriers to vaccination for individuals in underserved communities, according to the news release.

The coalition will coordinate and lead a network of community-based organizations to address COVID-19 related health disparities and advance health equity.

Participating organizations include: Healthy Androscoggin, Healthy Oxford Hills, River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition, Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington — including NorthStar EMS and Franklin Health medical practices — University of Maine at Farmington, Western Maine Community Action, and Western Maine Transportation Services.

These organizations will establish, expand and sustain community-based efforts to mobilize community workers, patient navigators, and other support specialists to increase vaccinations with a focus on grassroots outreach — a strategy that has been shown to be effective in addressing a variety of health issues in community and clinical settings, according to the release.

The funding will enable the greater Franklin County coalition and collaborating partners to collectively add six full-time and six part-time positions.

“Everyone has a role to play in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” McCormack said. “This grassroots outreach effort with key community partners will build vaccine confidence in the hardest hit and highest risk communities to ensure that everyone has fair and equitable access to these vaccines to get the unvaccinated vaccinated.”

 


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