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, and 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.” 

Excellus BCBS Health Equity Award funding will support the following initiatives:

  • Boys & Girls Club of Binghamton - Helping Underserved Youth Make Healthy Choices: Funding will support four health-focused, educational programs for the Boys & Girls Club of Binghamton that target Black and Brown children in high need areas.
  • Boys & Girls Club of Buffalo Inc. - Mental Health Access Program: The Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo Mental Health Access Program promotes the social and emotional well-being of members through early-intervention counseling and targeted activities. Through our certified and trained staff as well as partnerships with licensed contracted partners, the program provides a solid foundation of tools so all members can leverage and create opportunities to shift the course of their life’s trajectory and overcome cycles of inequity.
  • Catholic Charities Food Bank of the Southern Tier - Needs Assessment Recommendations for Reaching People of Color and Immigrants: The goal of this program is to reduce health disparities and improve the availability of healthy, nutritious food to communities of color and immigrants.  Success of this program will be measured by the level of reduction in the service gap to immigrants and people of color.
  • Cayuga Medical Center at Ithaca - Community Health Advocates for Racial Equity (CHARE): CHARE's goal is to improve health literacy, identify healthcare gaps and reduce barriers within Black and Latinx communities in Tompkins County, using a community health advocate training program approach. By utilizing a train-the-trainer model, this program will advance individuals’ personal health literacy, their ability to share information with their community and social networks, and their ability to advocate for equitable care.
  • 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.
  • Chautauqua Center - Medical Translation Program: The key component of quality health care outcomes for Spanish speaking patients is use of a qualified interpreter to facilitate communication. The Chautauqua Center will enhance Spanish language assistance for individuals who have limited English proficiency, at no cost, to reduce health disparities for our growing Spanish speaking patient population.
  • 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.
  • Family Justice Center of Erie County - Community Focus: Relationship Abuse in Buffalo's East Side: The Family Justice Center will provide effective, culturally competent, and accessible assistance to domestic violence survivors on Buffalo’s East Side from a base of operations at Harvest House Ministries. Since 2019, we have worked with Dr. Noelle St. Vil at the University of Buffalo and focus groups of East Side residents to brainstorm more effective ways to address DV in their communities, and the suggestions given by these focus groups will form the basis of our policies at the site.
  • Grassroots Gardens of Western New York - Creating Health Equity through Community Gardens: Grassroots Gardens WNY will increase access to free, fresh organic food by cultivating 10+ community gardens with city residents in Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Additionally, we will make modifications to several gardens to increase accessibility to them for people with disabilities and add play elements for family learning and engagement.
  • Mohawk Valley Frontiers Club - Paths to a Healthier Me: This program will focus on strengthening the mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing of students in communities of color. Through the format of a wellness program, students and their family members will be introduced to techniques and resources such as talk-therapy/workshops to address the stigma around mental health treatment, racial injustices, systemic racism, and finding support, as well as relaxation, stress relief tips, physical movement, and self-care.
  • 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.
  • United Way of Central New York / Early Childhood Alliance of Onondaga - Act Early Onondaga: This program will address disparities in the access rates of Black and Latino children with the Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education programs; additionally, it will deepen caregiver and parent knowledge about child development and social emotional development by utilizing a developmental screening strategy. The goal is to actively support parents in deepening knowledge around child development and social emotional development and help prevent gaps in health outcomes for at-risk children and communities.
  • The Upstate Foundation - She Matters: She Matters is a peer-to-peer community outreach program of the Upstate Cancer Center designed to reduce health disparities by making annual breast cancer screening a priority among low-income, primarily Black and Latinx women. This initiative will address the issue of higher breast cancer deaths and incidences in the Black and brown communities through a multi-level approach to eliminate barriers, increase access and educate residents on breast cancer screening and care.
  • 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.
  • Young Scholars LLP of Utica College - Young Scholars Mental Health Equity Programming: Young Scholars LLP provides year-round academic support, counseling, and social and cultural enrichment to students from diverse backgrounds and communities of color in grades seven through twelve. These students and their families are among the populations that face overall health disparities, particularly in the mental health area. This program will provide mental health support from a licensed social worker for students and their families.
  • 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

Joy Auch, (585) 238-4374

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


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