Hartford Launches Initiatives to Address Disparities in Coronavirus Outcomes

Apr.23, 2020

Hartford, Conn. (April 23, 2020) – Today, the City of Hartford announced important initiatives designed to remove barriers to testing for Hartford residents, reduce the transmission of the virus within the Hartford community, and increase awareness and understanding of the coronavirus’ disproportionate impact in communities of color. The initiatives include partnerships with Hartford HealthCare, Trinity Health Of New England, the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine, United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, and CT Area Health Education Center (CT AHEC), as well as Federally Qualified Heath Centers.

“One devastating reality of the coronavirus is that communities of color have been hardest hit, both in terms of health outcomes and economic impact,” said Mayor Luke Bronin. “Right now, we need to do everything we can to slow the spread of coronavirus in our community, dramatically expand access to testing, and continue to raise awareness and understanding. We are launching these outreach initiatives to reach as many members of our community in the most effective, culturally conscious ways possible. We are also providing free transportation to testing sites, to remove the transportation barrier for Hartford residents.”

Mayor Bronin added, “Hartford HealthCare’s partnership with Quest Diagnostics will significantly increase testing in Hartford, and by partnering together to pilot mobile testing, encouraging residents to get test prescriptions from Federally Qualified Health Centers, and providing free transportation for Hartford residents, we hope that we can significantly expand access to testing for our residents. We will continue to advocate and partner to expand testing capacity further because widely-available testing is a critical component of this fight, and will be a critical part of the recovery.”

Removing Barriers to Testing

Free Transportation for Testing Appointments

Because approximately 40% of Hartford residents lack access to a car, the lack of transportation is a barrier to get tested for coronavirus – even though some drive-through testing sites allow individuals to walk-through. Effective tomorrow, any Hartford resident with an appointment to get tested for coronavirus can call Hartford’s 311 at 860-757-9311 and the City of Hartford will arrange for transportation to take them to and from their testing site.

Mobile Testing Pilot

Early next week, Hartford HealthCare will pilot its first mobile test site in partnership with the City and has plans to expand across the region and state.

Expanded Access Through Federal Qualified Health Centers

This week, Hartford HealthCare announced that it will increase testing capacity by 500% to 2,500 tests a day through a partnership with Quest Diagnostics, including 900 or more tests each day at Hartford Hospital. Testing prescriptions written by medical staff at Hartford’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) will be accepted at the Hartford Hospital testing site. Because FQHCs are often the primary point of care for many Hartford residents, and are located throughout Hartford’s neighborhoods, this partnership will make it easier for Hartford residents to obtain tests.

Individualized Outreach to Households and Buildings Affected by Coronavirus

The City’s Health and Human Services Department is partnering with medical students from the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine in coordination with CT AHEC to conduct outreach to households with individuals who have both confirmed and unconfirmed cases of coronavirus.  The goal of the outreach will be to educate households on how to minimize the spread of coronavirus and isolate sick individuals effectively. Medical students will also be able to follow up on the health and safety and status of those in the household and refer them to services like 211 and 311 if there are other unmet needs in the household.

“By definition, healthcare providers are altruistic and caring,” said Bruce Gould, Director of CT AHEC, Associate Dean Primary Care, University of CT School of Medicine, Medical Director for Hartford Health and Human Services Department. “Utilizing UConn medical and other health profession students to support those self-isolating for COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, assuring their health and access to basic needs, is an extension of the that altruism and caring. They are glad to help.”

Public Education Campaign

The City of Hartford, Trinity Health Of New England, Hartford HealthCare, United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, and hopefully more partners to come, will be launching a coordinated public education campaign to continue the emphasis on social distancing, masks, and hand hygiene; educate residents about how to minimize the spread of coronavirus in multi-generational and large- or multi-family housing situations; and give guidance about when and how to access health services, including mental health services, among other key messages. The bilingual campaign will include getting these messages out through local media channels, faith and other community leaders, distributing information to service providers, and other avenues.

“I believe that the ‘normal’ we came from is not the normal we should return to,” said Sarah Lewis, Hartford HealthCare’s Vice President for Health Equity. “With careful planning, attention to data, and the inclusive elevation of voices from our most at-risk communities, we have the opportunity to create a new normal that sets the pace for the country.”

“We are proud to partner with the City of Hartford to ensure some of our most vulnerable community members are safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Philip Roland, Chief Medical Officer, Saint Francis Hospital, a member of Trinity Health Of New England. “In keeping with our mission and core values, we are deeply committed to serve as a healing presence to our patients and our neighbors, which has become even more critical at this challenging time.”

“United Way is here to connect people with the right resources to ensure their safety and the safety of others,” said Paula S. Gilberto, President and CEO, United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut. “We’re proud to partner with the City, Hartford HealthCare and Trinity Health of New England on this important public awareness campaign. I encourage people to call 2-1-1, United Way’s statewide information and referral line for community resources to keep people healthy during this time.”