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Manatee CARES Act funding creates new COVID-19 partnership

Emily Wunderlich - Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Published Sep, 15, 2020

Manatee County CARES Act funding has helped facilitate a new collaboration focused on protecting the county’s most at-risk residents from COVID-19.

A $342,000 grant to Tidewell Hospice will help found the Multicultural Action Team: A countywide initiative focused on prevention, education, advocacy, research, linkage to care and sustainable solutions.

The Multicultural Health Institute will be Tidewell’s leading partner in the effort. The MHI was founded in 1995 by Dr. Lisa Merritt, but since March, it has helped nearly 5,000 people receive direct assistance aimed at the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on diverse populations.

“Tidewell Hospice is pleased to be a key partner with MHI and others to address the disparities of COVID 19 among minority populations,” said Tidewell President and CEO Jonathan Fleece in a prepared statement.

“Through our newly formed Tidewell Foundation, we plan to actively engage even more in the future in health issues impacting our community. Now more than ever is a time to reinforce our commitment to equality, service and love for humanity, with a special focus on helping at-risk people during this pandemic.”

While Hispanic and African-American residents make up 14.9% and 8.7% of the county’s population respectively, nearly half of all COVID-19 cases in the county are among people of color.

“It has been our honor and privilege to care for and educate the community on health equity issues while also developing future healthcare leadership,” Merritt said in a statement.

“We are excited at the opportunity to solidify long standing collaborations into the Multicultural Action Team which will continue to improve awareness of health and wellness issues while preventing spread and complications from COVID-19 amongst vulnerable populations.”

The initiatives are generally focused on distribution of personal protective equipment; education of best practices in multiple and culturally appropriate languages through a variety of media; community-based assessments of conditions and needs; testing and connecting individuals to appropriate resources; and tracking results and developing community-oriented solutions to problems in the healthcare system and social institutions.

Other community partners in the MAT include UnidosNow, Gulf Coast Latin Chamber of Commerce, Healthy Teens Coalition of Manatee County, Inc., New College of Florida, The Links Inc. Bradenton/Sarasota Chapter and Resilient American Communities an initiative of Health Initiatives Foundation Inc.

To date, Manatee County has approved $4.42 million in CARES Act funding for community health and wellbeing. In total, the county has approved more than $13.9 million in CARES Act funding.

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