Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF), whose service area incorporates some 11 million residents in 57 counties of East Texas including Houston and Austin, recently announced it has invested more than $21 million in new grants addressing social determinants of health to community-based organizations and clinics across the state.
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Based in Houston, EHF has been committed to programs that improve community health access and outcomes since its founding in 2013.
An integral part of the foundation’s #HealthNotJustHealthCare mission has been to improve and strengthen organizations that assist low-income Texans to enroll in affordable health insurance or other health-related benefit programs.
In 2016, it invested $10 million into a 4-year statewide initiative, Community-Centered Health Homes, that worked with clinics to develop preventive health care measures. That groundwork led to the largest single investment cycle of grants issued by EHF to date.
The $21 million will be distributed across various community clinics and nonprofit organizations, including $755,000 to local governments and nonprofits participating in the Texas Accountable Communities for Health Initiative (TACHI) across 6 communities—Austin, Bastrop County, Brazos Valley, Houston’s greater northside, Gregg County, and Williamson County.
Jo Carcedo, Vice President for Grants, said EHF’s philanthropic strategy has always revolved around shifting health system resources to address non-medical factors like housing, safety, and access that impact both individual and community health.
The foundation has been working with organizations to support, rather than direct, their work addressing the underlying causes of distinctive health issues affecting their beneficiaries.
“We’re actually beginning to see evidence where the culture of organizations, community clinics, has changed,” Carcedo said. “Their mindset has changed to become more outwardly focused on the evidence that we see regarding their workflows, regarding their work orientations.”
Some 44 grant recipients were selected based on their ability to meet 2 specific outcomes: resource allocation and system reform in the health sector, and access to comprehensive community care for low-income and vulnerable populations.
One of the recipients serving the mission around health equity is Mama Sana Vibrant Woman in Austin, a nonprofit organization providing free pregnancy, birth, and postpartum support to women of color in Travis County.
“The organization itself is led by people of color,” Carcedo said. “It is a doula and a midwife program, which we know is an evidence-based practice that is particularly important with African American and Hispanic populations of women.
We have worked with that organization over a period of time to do two things. One is to support their work specifically around doulas and midwives and populations that we serve. But we’ve also spent tens of thousands of dollars on what we call organizational effectiveness, which is to make sure that the organization itself is solid, just as an organization.”
Carcedo said that women’s reproductive health in Texas is becoming more important so the success of health centers like Mama Sana is vital. EHF investments go beyond financial support by consulting smaller organizations that do not have the capacity on sustainability measures such as business planning, fund development, and implementation.
Part of that sustainability work is focused on building capacity for value-based payments. Carcedo believes the way in which health care is currently financed in America is unsustainable over time and that alternative payment methodologies are the path forward.
EHF is divided into 3 operational divisions: research & innovation, community engagement, and grantmaking. Carcedo said her division’s approach to health equity has worked at the enterprise level, top-down, to understand and recognize particular biases inherent when engaging with external partners and community groups.
This approach has been impactful and explicit, leading to thoughtful conversations around health equity that inform identifying and funding opportunities within nonprofit organizations that Texans below the poverty line.
Some $15 million of the total allocation goes to help community-based clinics provide comprehensive care to low-income residents, including preventive, primary, dental, specialty referral, behavioral, and telehealth services.
Meanwhile, Bishop Dena A. Harrison Fellows Program has been awarded $3 million. Developed by EHF in 2015 to close the mental health gap in 12 rural counties across East Texas, the fellowship provides mental health care services to low-income families at the Seminary of the Southwest. Seminary counseling graduates from local mental health agencies take part in delivering care.