Banner Payson Medical Center and the Payson Fire Department are in line to receive a portion of $2.6 million recently awarded to the county.

On July 27, Gila County accepted a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. The grant includes $1.8 million dedicated to local organizations.

The funds are targeted to address health equity and disparity issues in Gila County and is directed to unserved and underserved populations.

Gila County as a whole is underserved, said Josh Beck, deputy director of Gila County Emergency Management Department, in an interview with the Roundup. They base this on the fact that all its school districts have high numbers of students qualifying for free and reduced food programs, as well as its rural population.

Addressing the issues of health equity and health disparity could bring more clinics to remote areas, along with health education opportunities.

“By improving overall health we are also making a difference for vulnerable populations in regard to COVID,” said Michael O’Driscoll, director of the Gila County Health and Emergency Management Department.

O’Driscoll said once they work the details out, the funds should go out between mid and late October.

According to O’Driscoll, BPMC and the Payson Fire Department will work to address the following objectives: (1) Address barriers to accurate and reliable health information during the COVID-19 pandemic, (2) Apply health literacy and plain language principles to improve communication and understanding among vaccine-hesitant and vulnerable populations, and (3) Identify, disseminate or develop COVID-19 resources and responses to meet the literacy, language, and cultural needs of diverse audiences through the development of health impact statements and health literacy action plans.

“To utilize this funding opportunity to address health literacy for the COVID-19 pandemic in Gila County’s underserved communities, the focus will be on preventing illness and saving lives in Gila County’s underserved populations to improve testing, vaccination, and knowledge around COVID-19. Additionally, this funding will be a financial boost to our local community partners who work with underserved populations in their day-to-day activities,” O’Driscoll said.

The funding will address the COVID-19 pandemic in Gila County’s underserved communities from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2023.

The Roundup reached out to BPMC and the fire department for comments, but had not heard back by press time.

Contact the reporter at tmcquerrey@payson.com

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(1) comment

Mike White

Can some of this money be used to pay down the very large debt the Town has on funding the FD's retirement plan?

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