The Houston-based Episcopal Health Foundation awarded a $210,000 grant to Bastrop County Cares — a nonprofit focused on improving the social determinants of health in the county — to plan ways to create equal health opportunities for county residents.
Bastrop County was one of five sites in the state chosen to receive the grant and the only rural county selected. While the funding relationship between Bastrop County Cares and the Episcopal Health Foundation is expected to span several years, the grant will continue through December.
The funding will enable Bastrop County to participate in the Texas Accountable Communities for Health initiative.
Debbie Bresette, Executive Director of Bastrop County Cares, announced the partnership between BCC and EHF at the Bastrop County Commissioners Court meeting on January 25. She said communities responsible for health is a strategy that has been used nationally.
According to the Prevention Institute, a national nonprofit organization that works to improve community health and well-being and has offices in Houston, a community health lead “is a structured, cross-sector alliance of health care, public health, and other organizations that plans and implements strategies to improve population health and health equity for all residents of a geographic area.
This description echoes what Bresette said the initiative intends to do in Bastrop County.
“We’ll be asking community members in a variety of ways what they think is important to their community and what improvements and systems could be made to improve their lives,” Bresette said. “What we’re looking at is what people need in the areas where they live, work, pray and learn.”
According to the Prevention Institute, the community responsible for health model offers opportunities to reduce health care costs, improve the quality of health care, and improve the health of the population in an area.
In Bastrop County, the first step toward that end goal will be to use the $210,000 grant and the remainder of 2021 as a planning stage to assess community needs.
During the Court of Commissioners meeting, Bresette announced that Donna Nichols would be the project manager overseeing the planning and implementation of responsible communities for health in the county.
Nichols, a longtime Bastrop County resident, has spent most of her professional career working for the Texas Department of State Health Services and as a national policy director.
“What I’ve realized, folks, is that if we really want to make a difference in the health of any given population, it’s best to do it locally, rather than trying to orchestrate it at the level. national or state,” Nichols said. the Court of Commissioners.
The Community Health Initiative Planning Foundation Grant represents just the beginning of several large-scale investments in Bastrop County.
“I would expect it to be a huge investment from the Episcopal Health Foundation, that four years later we should be approaching nearly $1 million,” Nichols said. . “What we hope to achieve by the end of 2021 is a work plan that will delineate the issues we want to address first.”
Both Bresette and Nichols praised the versatility of the initiative and how Bastrop County Cares can help focus it on county-specific issues, such as broadband internet service or COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
“It gives the county an opportunity to think about some of these very large-scale issues and how we might transform some systems within the county to be able to provide a fair and equitable health care opportunity to everyone who resides in the county. Bastrop County,” Nichols said. .
With factors ranging from social services to transportation all playing a role in community health care, Bresette said the next 11 months will focus primarily on identifying those community needs and providing the necessary training to increase capacity. to provide better health care services.
This, along with the development of community strategies and work plans, will provide the foundation for future progress towards implementing and sustaining responsible communities for health in Bastrop County, a process expected to begin in 2022. .
“We’re going to go back and look at all the root causes and start putting in place practices and system changes to help their lives thrive,” Bresette said. “It will eventually allow all of us in the community to be able to bring about the change we want to see in our world.”