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Methodist Le Bonheur receives $1M to address COVID-19 in the Mid-South

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 8:32 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A major Memphis hospital has received a significant amount of money to educate and help vaccinate people.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services handed out roughly 130 grants with $1 million going to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare to increase COVID-19 education and vaccine access in local underserved communities.

“We are using the money to create positions in the Methodist healthcare system that can help us do this work. We are definitely using the money to expand and increase our outreach to our own hospital patients. We are also using it to do community events, pop-up style things, you know vendor and sort of education tables at community events, and then also door-to-door work,” said Jonathan Lewis, director of community partnerships for Methodist.

47.9 percent of Tennessee’s population is fully vaccinated. That number drops to 45 percent in Shelby County.

Lewis blames vaccine hesitancy and access.

Shelby County Health Department data shows vaccination rates remain low in the north and south parts of the county, areas like Frayser, Raleigh, Orange Mound, and Whitehaven.

Lewis says the grant money will allow them to partner with more faith leaders and collaborate with the Center for Transforming Communities and Legacy of Legends Community Development Corporation.

“Congregational Health Network, the CHN partners with around 300 churches and the reach that, that represents to all the neighborhoods and communities is really tremendous,” Lewis said.

Charlie Caswell, executive director with Legacy of Legends, says his organization has been doing community outreach in Frayser since the start of the pandemic.

“It’s always been my thing to how do we get more people in this community, especially in Frayser, to trust the process,” Caswell said.

Caswell says the grant money will allow the organization to put more boots on the ground.

“We’re going to hire three new community outreach people. They’re going to be in the neighborhood, so it’s most definitely going to expand our capacity to serve more families,” Caswell said.

Methodist says this grant money will also help with efforts across the Mid-South and they will use resources in other parts of Tennessee, North Mississippi, and Northeast Arkansas.

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