Rochester, NY

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield announces recipients of 2021 Health Equity Awards

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield announced today the recipients of its 2021 Health Equity Awards. The awards represent more than $388,000 in financial support the nonprofit health insurer is providing to community programs that address racial and ethnic health disparities across its upstate New York service area. 

"Through these Health Equity Awards, we are honoring our pledge to invest in organizations that strive for equitable treatment and the elimination of discrimination for all people so they may have an opportunity to live healthier and more secure lives,” said Excellus BlueCross BlueShield President and CEO Jim Reed. “We believe we have a duty to lead by example and inspire positive change within our company, our industry, and broadly in the communities we serve. This work furthers our commitment to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, & Access, which guides us in all we do.”

Last August, Excellus BCBS invited organizations to apply for awards of up to $30,000 each to help fund programs to improve health equity in communities of color, especially within Black and Latino communities. These segments of our community continue to suffer from health care and social disadvantages due to racism and discrimination. Award categories include, but were not limited to, improving the community’s physical health and mental health, reducing social disparities in health care, and ensuring access to health care services. 

The funding from Excellus BCBS will support 18 nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organizations across 39 counties of upstate New York. With more than 150 applicants, a comprehensive review process included input from individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences to assess each proposal. Grant recipients were selected based on clear, defined goals and measurable results for reducing health disparities and improving health equity.

“We are a nonprofit health insurer with more than 4,000 employees who call upstate New York their home,” said Holly Snow, Director of Community Investments and Partnerships for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Improving the health and quality of life in the communities we share with our members supports our mission. By funding these local initiatives, we will improve access to care and advance specific health outcomes and improve health equity.” 

In the Rochester region, nearly $134,000 is being awarded to support the following initiatives:  

  • Center for Teen Empowerment - Multi-Neighborhood Youth Organizing: A Racial Equity Antidote to Community-Level Violence
    Community-level violence among young people is a public health issue and disproportionately harms the well-being of Black and Brown youth and their communities. Teen Empowerment hires neighborhood-based youth organizers to connect their peers with adult community leaders, families, and neighborhood residents to uplift neighborhoods and create sustainable change. Funding will help enable the program to expand from a single Rochester neighborhood to two additional historically redlined neighborhoods.
  • Empire Justice Center - Language Access Program
    Language and cultural barriers can limit access to information, health care, pose serious health risks, and cause uncertainty to legal rights and services. Funding for the program will help provide community agencies, healthcare facilities, legal providers, first responders, and other vital service agencies with access to language expertise to protect, enforce and expand the rights of members of our community with limited English proficiency and who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing.
  • Mt Hope Family Center- Building Healthy Children
    The Building Healthy Children home visiting program provides support to young mothers and their babies in Monroe County. Award funding will help address disparities in breastfeeding rates for women of color by providing training to seven community health workers, who reflect the race/ethnicity of the target population, as certified lactation counselors to deliver evidence-based lactation counseling and support to young women in their homes.
  • Partners in Community Development - Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) Parent Mental Health Project
    Historically the stigma related to mental health, receiving services, and distrust associated with systemic racism within the mental health system has resulted in many BIPOC families suffering silently. The program is designed to address trauma, mental health and social and emotional health of these children and families.  Funding will assist in providing culturally appropriate education and information to address stigmas associated with mental health and services from the Racial Equity lens to build trusting relationships in communities of color.
  • The National Witness Project (NWP)-The Witness Project of Western New York
    To combat challenges and help increase screening mammography rates for African American women, funding will support NWP’s culturally tailored group education, outreach, empowerment messages, and survivor narratives to provide coordinated breast health education, community door to door outreach, navigation services, and transportation to screenings.
  • Wayne County Action Program - The Empowerment Program
    Through this program, people with disabilities (physical, mental, behavioral) are provided with peer support, nutritional and health education, referrals, assistance in navigating special education and health systems, and wrap-around care. Funding will allow expansion of the program and place a peer support specialist in Newark, Lyons and Sodus, NY whose communities have some of the greatest instances of poverty, percentage of African Americans, people with disabilities, and Spanish-speaking migrant workers.
  • YWCA - Health Equity through trusted community engagement program
    YWCA, in partnership with Coordinated Care Services, Inc., Aenon Mission Baptist Church, neighborhood schools, and community health care providers, will use award funding to design a community-based health and wellness program. The program will focus on improving health outcomes and building trust within Black and Brown communities historically marginalized with significant health disparities.  

For the latest information on the health plan’s community investments and partnerships, members, providers and employers are encouraged to visit

Karen Feigel, (585) 238-4308

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit


GDPR Notification Content