For over 22 years, the Central California Alliance for Health (CCAH) has served our community, the entirety of Santa Cruz County, Monterey, and Merced as a nonprofit health care plan over 330,000 members. While 1 out of every 4 locals have visited their business, they’re hoping to support more than just their members during this time of crisis. Last week, the CCAH board pledged 1 million dollars from their Medi-Cal Capacity Grant Program (MCGP) as a COVID-19 relief fund, for community members in dire need. Kathleen McCarthy, the CCAH Strategic Development Director that oversees the MCGP, described how these funds would directly impact our county.
As soon as COVID-19 began to develop in the U.S., the CCAH started “reaching out to funders, current grantees, and community partners to ask about current community needs.” After many board discussions, the first allotment was decided. While the 1 million-dollars will be disbursed throughout the three counties for multiple causes overtime, the CCAH decided 600,000 of those 1 million-dollars should go to food banks immediately. Santa Cruz County has already received 157,000 dollars of the allotment as a donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank. McCarthy proudly asserts, “That’s equivalent to 628,000 meals.” The CCAH decided to donate as quickly as they could to the food bank because, “Food is most urgent, pressing need in our community right now… The food banks in all three counties we provide for have experienced anywhere from a 100% to 400% increase in calls and in person demand as of recently. So many need food in the current state of our economy, and many more are confused about getting food safely, so they contact the food bank.”
Food insecurity has concerned the CCAH for quite some time. According to a CCAH 2016 member survey, “close to 50% of our members were living in food insecure households, meaning they worried about affording food or were unable to purchase food.” McCarthy greatly sympathized, “It’s already hard enough right now, without deciding between rent, food, and medication.” The CCAH already has plans for the “remaining funds to be awarded over the coming weeks, but for now food is the most urgent, pressing concern… Other needs will present themselves as time goes on, but food banks have an immediate, tangible impact right now.”
While 60% of the MCGP will go directly to food banks, the CCAH is providing for other community needs as well. This past Friday, 20,000 dollars of the grant were approved for the Teen Kitchen Project, a Soquel nonprofit where teenagers provide community members with life-threatening illness healthy, home-cooked meals. The CCAH is also “deploying resources to other community organizations, to fund basic health needs, like providing diapers, baby wipes and formula, and delivery of groceries to higher-risk residents. McCarthy also emphasized the needs of “local organizations that serve the unhoused with water, soap, and masks, protective equipment for non-healthcare essential workers and front-line nonprofit organizations.
The remarkable motivation behind the grant stems from their mission, “to provide successful health care guided by local innovation,” according to McCarthy. “The CCAH is all about community and while all populations are being affected right now, our most vulnerable members of the community are disproportionately affected. We needed to do something to help out.” The grant program started donating to local organizations in 2015, in accordance with their mission statement, “to expand access and quality of healthcare in our community.” McCarthy looks forward to continuing that tradition, by “remaining flexible and aware of community needs,” and Santa Cruz County is grateful for it.