KANSAS CITY – The University of Kansas Medical Center recently distributed a total of 22,500 COVID-19 rapid home test kits in 20 Kansas counties, including Barton County. The kits were sent as part of a new community health initiative funded by a $13 million grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Other counties include Bourbon, Cherokee, Crawford, Cowley, Finney, Ford, Geary, Gant, Harvey, Johnson, Labette, Marshall, Mitchell, Montgomery, Shawnee, Sedgwick, Seward, Thomas and Wyandotte.
The grant was obtained and will be managed by KU Medical Center for a program named Communities Organizing to Promote Equity, or COPE. COPE partners include KU Medical Center, community health clinics, community organizations and health departments within the specified counties. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made funding available to state health departments to address health equity, particularly in response to COVID-19; however, the funds are not limited to pandemic-related health concerns.
KU Medical Center faculty, staff and students were joined by family members and volunteers from area middle schools and high schools to label and pack the test kits for distribution. Project Lead Sarah Finocchario Kessler, Ph.D., MPH, associate professor of family medicine and community health in the KU School of Medicine, said, “We are very excited to get these tests to partner organizations and families in COPE counties as a great way to launch our program.”
In addition to providing the COVID tests, funds from COPE will be used to hire and train three community health care workers (CHWs) in each county through the grant’s end date of June 2023. Kessler said the CHWs will aim to:
• Build rapport and trust with underserved community members by linking them to needed services
• Facilitate access to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations through partnerships with trusted community-based organizations
• Strengthen the role of community health workers in the public health response to COVID-19 and build health equity in local communities
“This an opportunity to potentially hire from the underserved communities we’re trying to reach and to provide CHWs and community leaders with the budgetary resources needed to put good, practical ideas into practice,” Kessler said.