Heartland Alliance Health (HAH) is dedicated to transforming health for the most vulnerable and marginalized in Chicago. Our services have always been critical but COVID-19 brings unprecedented threats to the individuals and communities we serve. Many fall in the highest-risk categories for contracting and suffering complications from COVID-19. On average, among the 10,000 participants served each year, all are low-income or living in poverty, more than 75% are experiencing or had experienced homelessness, and nearly 70% were people of color, a majority of whom are Black. Moreover, 49% have one or more chronic illness and 35% have a mental health or substance use issue. Yet they also have the least access to medical care. And, new data is showing the impact of these disparities. In Chicago, 62% of COVID-19 deaths come from the Black community even though they make up only 30% of the population, and the south and west sides, where we operate, have much higher infection rates than more affluent areas. HAH is committed to protecting the health, well-being, and safety of those we serve in the midst of this crisis, but unexpected staffing, supply, and operational needs are creating challenges for the organization.
Leadership and staff are working around the clock to respond to immediate needs of participants, to protect the health and safety of staff and participants, and to ensure service continuity, adaptation, and expansion, when possible. Recently we’ve also launched screening and testing for COVID-19 at HAH’s health centers and externally at shelters or other sites. Moreover, our food pantries on the north, south, and west sides have launched curbside pick-up and delivery for those who are immuno-compromised and living with HIV/AIDS. And, we’ve begun providing medical, case management, benefits, and mental health services through telehealth.