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JHF Announces COVID-19 Emergency Fund, and $645K to Support AIDS Initiative, Seniors, and Patient Safety

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) on March 30 approved an emergency fund for the COVID-19 pandemic, along with four grants to extend its efforts in HIV/AIDS programming, engagement with and support of older adults, and the SWERVE initiative to improve patient safety. Within the current crisis, each grant addresses timely health issues that have only become further exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Emergency Fund

The COVID-19 pandemic is the largest and most urgent public health crisis of our time. JHF is working closely with other local foundations, the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, and other existing partners to ensure that the most immediate needs are met during the crisis. JHF is focusing its funding efforts primarily through its longtime community partners in the Pittsburgh region in accordance with the greatest identified needs that save lives, support workers who save lives, demonstrate immediate impact and have short term implications, and do not replace government funding. This will be an evolving effort as the fight to save lives and end this virus continues over the days and months ahead.

Phase II of AIDS Free Pittsburgh

JHF approved a five-year, $250,000 grant to support the second phase of the Allegheny County Initiative, AIDS Free Pittsburgh. Over the next five years, building on the success and partnerships of the last five years, AIDS Free Pittsburgh (AFP) aims to deepen opportunities for meaningful community engagement and forge new partnerships with additional healthcare and community groups. There are also opportunities to strategically align HIV elimination efforts with interconnected public health challenges such as the hepatitis C, opioid, and STI epidemics.

Despite momentous advances in HIV prevention and care service delivery, Allegheny County has continued to rank second highest for the annual number of new HIV cases and people living with HIV/AIDS in Pennsylvania. In addition to the human toll of HIV, the CDC estimates that Pennsylvanians living with HIV face a lifetime cost of $478,000 (per person) to treat their HIV infection. If AFP reaches its goal of a 75% reduction in new HIV cases, this could result in an estimated medical cost savings of $49.8 million by averting 104 new HIV infections.

Read more about JHF's HIV/AIDS efforts here.

Reducing Senior Isolation Through Community Engagement

JHF approved a two-year, $215,000 grant to support the expansion of two senior initiatives that address isolation and loneliness: the Virtual Senor Academy and Fit with a Physician. Social isolation among older persons has been a concern for policymakers for several decades. Isolation is associated with poor physical and mental health status, poor quality of life, and even with avoidable death. With an estimated 211,000 older adults living in Allegheny County, and 75,000 of them living alone, there are thousands of older adults at-risk for isolation in the area. The new impact of social distancing due to COVID-19 has only increased the imperative to address isolation.

$175,000 will go to the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh (JCC) for the two-year transition of the Virtual Senior Academy over to the JCC. JCC leadership is enthusiastic about how the Academy can fit into their menu of offerings to JCC seniors within the Jewish Community and throughout the county and the region. The JCC has a proven track record of scaling pilot programs to larger models with positive outcomes, outputs, and success in the wider community. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy has seen a dramatic rise in participation and demand over the last couple weeks, and JHF continues to manage the resource as the JCC gradually increases its role.

$40,000 will go to Venture Outdoors to expand the Fit with a Physician series over the next two years and beyond. Venture Outdoors currently has plans for 15 Fit with a Physician walks in Pittsburgh parks, and, in the short term, Venture Outdoors is looking to adapt the program onto the Virtual Senior Academy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Making the Case for Shortfalls in Funds for Skilled Nursing Facilities

JHF approved a $30,000 grant to make the case for the current shortfalls in Medicaid reimbursements for skilled nursing facilities. JHF will hire a neutral and trusted third party to develop a short, fact-based, and action-oriented case for funding that will be widely distributed with legislators throughout Pennsylvania. The case for funding will document the positive impacts of having high quality and viable nonprofit skilled nursing facilities, as well as the economic impact and resulting risk to Pennsylvanians if these facilities should close. The case for funding aims to be ready for use within six months, assuring that action can be taken in time to inform the next state budget cycle.

A State of Emergency in Patient Safety

JHF approved a one-year, $150,000 grant to support the second phase of the SWERVE: A State of Emergency in Patient Safety initiative. Recognizing that the 2020 Presidential election offers a unique opportunity to galvanize action and get the issue of medical errors on candidates' platforms, JHF worked with its longtime partner, the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation (NEHI), to launch three national SWERVE conversations, with additional funding from The John H. Hartford Foundation. The SWERVE conversations have focused on two strategies: developing a National Patient Safety Authority (NPSA), and defining a Public Option with provisions to promote patient safety.

This initiative began before the nation's astonishing lack of preparedness for COVID-19 was apparent. The pandemic has only served to highlight the need for a strong national central authority to guarantee the health and safety of our population.

During this second phase of the SWERVE initiative, JHF will work with NEHI to create a white paper about the NPSA and Public Option, form a task force with the best thought leaders from the SWERVE meetings, organize a national summit to ignite a coalition, and mobilize the coalition to get the presidential candidates to endorse SWERVE's platform. 

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Available for Interviews: Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD, President and CEO, Jewish Healthcare Foundation


About the Jewish Healthcare Foundation

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) and its three operating arms — the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI), Health Careers Futures (HCF), and the Women's Health Activist Movement Global (WHAMglobal) — offer a unique brand of activist philanthropy to advance healthcare innovation, advocacy, collaboration, and education in the interest of better population health. For more information, visit jhf.org.

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