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Support for Single Parents From a New Collaborative to Improve Health and Wellness Equity

By Tracie Isaac
Tracieisaac@minorityreporter.net

Hagar Ministry Health Equity Collaborative partners: (L to R) Ann Wilder, CCSI Pres., Sabrina LaMar, Monroe County Legislature Pres., Dr. Myra Henry, Pres. & CEO Rochester & Monroe County YWCA, Vincent Felder, Monroe County Legislature, Dr. Jonathan J.H. McReynolds, Senior Pastor of Aenon Missionary Baptist Church, Dr. Gina Cuyler, V.P. Health Equity and Community Investments of Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, LaRon Singletary Congressional Candidate Dist. 25.

Single parent led households including grandparents or other extended family members can participate in a year-long series of health education programming with the new Hagar Ministry Health Equity Collaboration.

The YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County have come together with Aenon Missionary Baptist Church and Coordinated Care Services, Inc. (CCSI) to improve equitable health outcomes for all, especially our Black and Brown communities in Greater Rochester.

“Our Black and Brown communities bear a disproportionate burden of illness and disability… That doesn’t have to be,” Dr. Gina Cuyler, Vice President of Health Equity and Community Investments at Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield said.  

The collaborative was inspired as a response to issues and recommendations from the Monroe County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorder 90-Day Task Force Priorities and Action Plan commissioned by Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.  

Over 500 participants are sought to address issues affecting the health and social well-being of children, single parents and households of single grandparents or other family members caring for children. It is designed to bring support and resources directly into local communities with direct access to trusted venues provided by trusted individuals. Funding to support the program for the pilot year of 2022 is being provided by a grant from Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield and support from Systems Integration Project of the United Way.

“This will be a dynamic opportunity for a community collaboration to facilitate transformative outcomes for those in our community that have suffered various inequities, disadvantages and social trauma,” Dr. Jonathan J.H. McReynolds, Senior Pastor of Aenon Missionary Baptist Church said.  “The target audience is one that I feel is often overlooked and disenfranchised due to various stigmas and assumptions regarding their existing circumstances in our community and especially in the faith community.”

McReynolds said single parenthood is especially personal to him because he is a product of a single parent household and was a single parent for a period, while raising his oldest son from the age of six-months.  

He said the experience made him keenly aware of the struggles, stigmas and perspectives of single parents and their households.  He envisions the Hagar initiative to be a primary vehicle from Aenon Missionary Baptist Church to deliver vital services to the community.  

Additional outreach will be made to various community organizations, platforms and educational systems in order to identify and connect with participants and resources to add to the success of the program.

Dr. Myra Henry, President & CEO of YWCA said Black and Brown people often experience mistrust and fear of traditional medical and clinical settings.  “Historic exploitation, abuse and maltreatment have resulted from both systemic racism and ideas.  Research indicates that our healthcare system needs a re-design in order to build trust and reach communities that have been historically marginalized and where significant disparities exist,” she said.  “We believe that we can do the work with our trusted partners and pillars in the community such as Aenon Baptist Church to provide real and lasting positive outcomes in health and wellness for our Black and Brown communities.”

The goal of the initiative is to engage single parents and students in 24 workshops in areas of housing, parenting, maternal and child health, child developmental milestones, health care advocacy, as well as topics such as dealing with trauma or addiction and other mental health issues.  During each workshop, health care providers and community-based organizations will be invited to showcase their services and resources.

Workshop topics, locations, presenters, available resources, childcare, transportation services and more will be communicated through a broad media campaign.

Dr. Henry said submissions from young adults and single parents focus groups were to be workshop topics and materials and include self-care, co-parenting counseling, resources and tools to help children in co-parenting situations. Additional information requested include financial literacy and navigating the systems in the City of Rochester.  

The YWCA will use existing support resources to address the issues reported from the initial focus group to be provided in the Hagar initiative.

“Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield is proud to provide funding to the Hagar Ministry Health Equity Collaboration through our Health Equity Awards for programs that address equity and health care in communities of color.  Our communities continue to suffer from health care and social disadvantages due to racism, discrimination and lack of access,” said Cuyler.

“We want to address and remove barriers that prevent our Black and Brown communities from living healthy and secure lives. This program does just that!” 

Ann Wilder, President of CCSI said partnering with the YWCA and Aenon Missionary Baptist Church for this important initiative.  CCSI is a 30 year old nonprofit organization, improving lives and strengthening  Rochester and upstate New York communities.   They provide training, education, program development addressing behavioral health and wellness, cultural competence, diversity, equity and inclusion.  

“We know that trusting relationships are critical to the design and delivery of services that meet community needs.  We believe the Hagar Ministry Health Equity Collaboration will serve as a model for other communities seeking to address social determinants of health using an equity lens,” Wilder said.

Additionally, gathered information from this initiative will demonstrate the impact of this community’s driven approach and provide a base on which to build.

The collaboration is building relationships and invites presenters, community resources and volunteers. 

Additional supporters of the initiative included Sabrina LaMar, President of Monroe County Legislature, District 27 and former RPD Chief, LaRon Singletary who is currently a candidate for the 25th Congressional District.

For more information contact Dr. Bridgitte Griffin at execpastoralasst@aenonmbc.org or Beth Russell at erussell@ywcarochester.org.