The Wright Center awarded trio of grants from city of Scranton for pandemic-related health and wellness activities

The Wright Center for Community Health recently received three grant awards from the city of Scranton as part of a distribution of federal funds to promote residents’ recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scranton awarded a total of about $1 million in wellness grants to nearly two-dozen area nonprofits. City officials focused this round of grant giving on three categories: drug overdose prevention, behavioral health and violence prevention, and wellness.

The Wright Center – a Scranton-based provider of primary health care and preventive services – is active in all three of the targeted categories and was chosen to receive a combined $145,000 in grant support. The organization will inject those public resources into three ongoing programs to benefit patients, health care providers, and the larger community.

The first award, to be used for overdose and prevention programs, will enable The Wright Center for Community Health to further engage community partners and patients in the services of its state-designated Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence. A portion of the $50,000 grant will provide community training on the topics of substance use disorder, medication-assisted treatment, and stigma surrounding addiction. Among the intended recipients of the educational sessions are law enforcement professionals, first responders, and government officials. This grant also will assist with harm reduction and long-term recovery support services in the region, which aim to reduce fatal overdoses.

The second award of $50,000 will be used to enhance The Wright Center for Community Health’s existing resiliency and wellness programming. Its Lifestyle Medicine service line will be integrated more fully into primary health care services, with the intent of engaging more high-risk patients in programs designed to help them positively adjust their behaviors. A prime focus will be on treating obesity as a chronic disease that contributes to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, cancer, and overall premature death.

The third award, in the amount of $45,000, will underwrite The Wright Center’s participation in a training program conducted by the New York-based Sanctuary Institute to promote employee wellness and create a supportive, trauma-informed environment for the benefit of the organization’s workforce, patients, and the broader community. The institute’s training model is seen by many as a needed antidote to the intensified pressure on health care workers and others brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scranton’s mayor announced the wellness grant distributions at a news conference on Nov. 22. The funds are part of $68.7 million that Scranton had received through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to address the pandemic’s economic and health-related fallout on city residents.

Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak

All applications were reviewed by the city, including by its public health coordinator, Dr. Rachna Saxena, and compliance consultants from Anser Advisory to ensure that organizations were not receiving duplicate federal benefits, per the guidelines set by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Applications were also reviewed for project sustainability, service to city residents, and more.

“The thoughtful and generous allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds by Scranton City Council will support our mission-driven efforts to improve the health and well-being of the patients and communities we humbly serve,” said Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak, president and CEO of The Wright Centers for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education.

“Thanks to our local and federal officials,” she said, “these resources will help us to expand and augment our ongoing efforts to address the opioid epidemic and empower recovery, our resiliency and wellness programming, and trauma-informed training for our governing board, executive management, health care providers, interprofessional learners, and patients.”

The Wright Center for Community Health operates a network of primary care practices in Northeast Pennsylvania, three located in the city, providing access to affordable, nondiscriminatory, high-quality services including medical, dental, and behavioral health care. The nonprofit enterprise also maintains an administrative and educational hub in Scranton’s South Side neighborhood.

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