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Highmark Western and Northeastern New York Awards $2.67M to Address Racial and Health Inequities 

Brings Health Plan’s 2021 Community Investments to more than $7 million, as part of a $70 million, 10-Year Commitment

December 03, 2021

Buffalo, N.Y. – Highmark Western and Northeastern New York today announced a $2.67 million investment focused on addressing racial and health inequities in the communities it serves.

These awards bring the not-for-profit health plans’ 2021 community investments and partnerships to more than $7 million, as part of a commitment to invest $70 million over the next decade.

“We believe our role as the region’s largest health plan is to ensure equitable access to quality health care and to help remove barriers that prevent individuals from improving their health. After extensive input from stakeholders and community leaders, we feel confident that we’ve identified like-minded trusted community partners who are making meaningful differences in addressing racial and health disparities,” said Michael Edbauer, D.O., president, Highmark Western and Northeastern New York.

Major grant recipients include Buffalo Center for Health Equity, Buffalo Go Green and the Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Center in Albany. The local health plan’s commitment to the success of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity goes beyond financial support, to include in-kind real estate that will facilitate the relocation and expansion of the Center’s offices to Highmark Western New York’s downtown headquarters at 257 W. Genesee St. 

Dr. Timothy F. Murphy, director, UB Community Health Equity Research Institute and senior associate dean for clinical and translational research at UB stated, “The Buffalo Center for Health Equity is an influential community-based organization and valued partner of the UB Community Health Equity Research Institute. The strong investment of Highmark Western and Northeastern New York will enable the BCHE to continue to lead the way in making real progress toward eliminating health disparities in our community. This support and partnership among Highmark, the BCHE and the University at Buffalo serves as a model for engaging our community broadly to tackle the devastating problem of health disparities in Buffalo. “

Details of the grants and recipients include:

  • The Buffalo Center for Health Equity will receive $1.5 million to support organizational capacity building and programs targeting communities with the greatest health disparities, including a blood- pressure control pilot project in partnership with the American Medical Association.

“We commend Highmark Western New York for investing in one of the largest challenges we face in our region and that is race based health disparities. This initial investment demonstrates a commitment to developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to bring health equity for all. This corporate and community partnership is what is needed to move the needle on health disparities that has plagued this region for generations,” said George F. Nicholas, chairman, Buffalo Center for Health Equity and senior pastor, Lincoln Memorial United Methodist. “This investment empowers our organization to grow our operations and programs, and ultimately reach more members of our community who need our support.”

  • Buffalo Go Green will receive $370,000 to deliver healthy, culturally appropriate meals and offer cooking demonstrations to Buffalo residents who reside in underserved areas through a new mobile-unit. The initiative also includes health and wellness programming to be piloted at select Buffalo East Side churches and throughout the community.

“Buffalo Go Green was developed to bring access to healthy food options and fight food injustice and its effects in underserved communities in Buffalo, but we know we can’t do it alone” said Allison DeHonney, CEO and executive director, Buffalo Go Green. “Thanks to the grant from Highmark Western New York, we’re adding a new mobile-unit that will help us bring nutritional meals and cooking demonstrations right to those who need us most.”

  • $500,000 is being designated to help bring a national workforce training program to Buffalo, to be formally announced early next year. The unique program will support a comprehensive workforce training and apprenticeship program in tech related fields while removing barriers to entry caused by poverty and bias.
  • The Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health Center in Albany will receive $300,000 to expand its “Whitney on Wheels” mobile health units and hire a social health engagement specialist to better connect services and improve primary and dental care in the Capital Region.

“This grant is allowing our organization to take “Whitney on Wheels” to the next level by hiring a social health engagement specialist who will not only connect individuals and families in underserved communities to primary and behavioral health care through our mobile units, but also address social determinants of health that may be impacting their access to care,” said David Shippee, president and CEO, Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Center.

The specific focus of these investments, to address racial and health inequities, was also a condition of the local health plan’s affiliation with Highmark Inc. These awards build on the company’s long history of making meaningful investments in organizations and initiatives that improve key health areas in the markets it serves. Most recently, Highmark Western and Northeastern New York announced Blue Fund grants totaling more than $2.8 million, bringing the company’s total Blue Fund investment to $10.8 million since the fund launched in 2018. Additionally, the local health plan has a robust community giving program that sees annual investments of more than $2 million in local partnerships and sponsorships.