This year, underserved communities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the country's most vulnerable communities, rampant health disparities have come to light – and it often falls on not-for-profit health centers and community pharmacists to educate and care for these higher-risk patient populations.
Not-for-profit “safety-net” health clinics are caring for the essential workers, those experiencing homelessness, and the newly unemployed, which has caused many clinics to see the number of patients coming through their doors multiply during the pandemic with the increase in job losses, says Tara Waters, Director of Business Development at Americares, a global health and disaster relief organization.
At the same time, community clinics usually have volunteer staff, limited profits, limited access to personal protective equipment, and rely on other non-profit organizations—and by extension their philanthropic donors—to keep their doors open.
To keep up with this kind of unprecedented need, businesses and non-profits are leaning on critical partnerships, and large companies stepping up their philanthropic giving, to make sure the organizations on the frontlines in communities can focus on meeting the most pressing needs.
“This year we have seen an even greater opportunity and responsibility to fulfill our purpose of creating healthier futures as the pandemic took its toll on everyone," says Gina Clark, President of the AmerisourceBergen Foundation. “We believe that you must partner with like-minded not-for-profits to share resources and knowledge to reach those local communities.”
AmerisourceBergen Foundation donated more than $1 million in emergency grants for pandemic response efforts to more than 20 nonprofits.
During the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Business Solves conference in November, Clark, along with Tara Waters from Americares, and Chichi Ilonzo Momah, COO of Springfield Pharmaceuticals LLC, discussed the critical importance of philanthropic partnerships this year.
Arming Community Pharmacies
AmerisourceBergen partnered with Springfield Pharmaceuticals, a community pharmacy near Philadelphia, to ensure its supply chain needs were being met.
“In the beginning of the pandemic it was rough; it was very, very hard for us to plan ahead, to project how many products we needed to get in to serve the population that we have,” said Momah. “Having a vendor relationship that knows how to allocate products to every pharmacy in these communities, to make sure they have access to these products on time, and have enough on time, is very critical for us.”
AmerisourceBergen, a pharmaceutical services company, was able to balance out and allocate products to regions, distribution centers, communities, and pharmacies based on need.
“Our communities expect us to be open and for their medications to be readily available,” said Momah. “We have had to pivot every day in different ways to make healthcare accessible to our patients.”
The role of pharmacies will only become more critical as vaccine distribution begins to roll out. Momah is confident community pharmacies are ready to do their part: “We’re preparing...we’re filling out the necessary documents that we need to, and we are ready to help our community, to help our patients, and to help America get this together.”
Addressing Frontline Workers’ Mental Health Needs
AmerisourceBergen Foundation has a long-time partnership with Americares. Waters said funding this year from the AmerisourceBergen Foundation and other donors has been critical to their ability to scale up and launch a coordinated global response to COVID-19.
AmerisourceBergen’s flexible funding allowed for Americares to use the funds where it was needed the most over the course of the pandemic, but a big priority has been mental health services for COVID-19 frontline workers.
Americares built out a COVID mental health training program to help frontline health workers manage fear, stress, and anxiety, so they in turn can provide quality care for their patients. The program addresses things like stress management, self-care, navigating grief and loss, and how to navigate stigma and discrimination, and offers group sessions for health workers to talk with one another.
“As we have worked to put PPE into the hands of health workers who were unsure of where their next mask was going to come from, we have heard so many stories of feelings of stress and anxiety and loss,” Waters said.
Americares has so far trained more than 12,000 participants in COVID-specific mental health and is launching an online learning platform that all health workers around the globe will be able to access.
Another big help: AmerisourceBergen continued its commitment to funding non-COVID initiatives like Americares’ behavioral and mental health programs and disaster relief efforts.
AmerisourceBergen funding for emergency programs has enabled Americares to respond to more than 26 countries for COVID-19, but also respond to communities affected by wildfires, a record-breaking hurricane season, and typhoons in the Philippines this year, Waters said.
For more information on these partnerships, watch the “Acting Together to Save Lives” session recording from the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s 2020 Business Solves conference. Video recordings of other sessions are available here.
For more information on AmerisourceBergen’s ongoing efforts to address COVID-19, visit their website.