Central Texans will receive additional support during the coronavirus pandemic, specifically to fill food insecurity gaps, cover patient costs, assist with hospital equipment needs and provide financial assistance for health care workers, thanks to a grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation.
Every day, nearly 160,000 Travis County residents have trouble meeting their nutritional needs. As such, the foundation is providing $250,000 toward coordinated efforts between Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin and Ascension Seton to help address those nutritional needs and other challenges the community is facing as a result of the coronavirus.
Half of the funds will go to Dell Med to strengthen an initiative through which 8,000 Central Texas residents who are particularly susceptible to the dangers of the coronavirus can enjoy fresh, healthy food. The remaining half will support Ascension Seton’s clinical response across 11 counties. Additionally, the funds will assist healthcare workers as they maintain their own well-being while caring for others by providing assistance with financial hardship, housing and medical needs.
“As communities look for ways to serve the most vulnerable populations impacted by the coronavirus crisis, we are dedicated to supporting the health care heroes at Dell Med and Ascension Seton — and their innovative solutions,” said Nikki Graham, Bank of America Austin market president. “During this challenging time, it’s important that we all work together like Austinites do — with innovation, compassion, and fellowship.”
To promote social distancing and address food and job insecurity during this time of crisis, Dell Med is partnering with Good Apple, a doctor-prescribed grocery delivery service founded and operated by Dell Med students and Michael Hole, M.D., MBA, pediatrician at Dell Children’s Medical Center, part of Ascension Seton, and an assistant professor with Dell Med and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. In partnership with Hope Food Pantry and the Austin Transportation Department, the company recently launched the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” initiative.
The Bank of America Charitable Foundation’s grant supports a critical component of this response: the hiring of individuals to pack and deliver nutritious food to seniors and people with compromised immune systems so they can avoid high-traffic locations such as grocery stores and food pantries. In the first eight days, a team led by Dr. Hole and Dell Med student Zack Timmons operationalized an emergency food response system that has already served more than 1,000 people with a full week’s worth of healthy food.
“In the face of uncertainty around COVID-19, I have been inspired by how our community has come together,” said Dell Med Dean Clay Johnston, M.D., Ph.D. “This gift from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation is part of that inspiration and will be put to immediate use helping those most impacted by the crisis.”
Ascension Seton will use its Bank of America grant as a matching fund to support its COVID-19 Response Fund. Additional gifts to the fund will now have double the impact to help:
● Cover health care costs for poor and vulnerable patients related to COVID-19
● Cover the hospital system’s supply, equipment or program needs related to COVID-19 response
● Support caregivers’ needs resulting from COVID-19
The hospital system is preparing for a potential future surge of patients due to the pandemic, and as the designated safety net hospitals for the region, Ascension Seton expects to see a rise in uninsured and underinsured patients. With the support of the foundation’s grant, the COVID-19 Response Fund will address the current and potential needs of associates across 12 hospitals and more than 100 clinical sites, and ensure all patients receive high-quality, personalized, compassionate and holistic care, regardless of their ability to pay.
“We are immensely grateful for this gift from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation that will provide needed support and supplies to our health care system during the challenging times ahead as we continue to fight this pandemic,” said Andy Davis, president and CEO of Ascension Texas. “We continue to be amazed and inspired by the organizations and individuals across Central Texas and beyond who are donating their time and resources to help keep our local communities safe.”
Already academic medical system partners, Dell Med and Ascension Seton have expanded their collaboration in the wake of COVID-19. Leaders from the two groups meet regularly to plan how they will work together to address urgent community needs. Dell Med faculty members; providers of the school’s clinical practice, UT Health Austin; Dell Seton Medical Center; and other community partners address infection control, screening and inpatient care management.