What women need to know about preeclampsia

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When Eleni Tsigas was expecting her first child, she had no known risk factors for preeclampsia — a serious disease in pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure. She thought her headaches and swelling were normal pregnancy aches.  

By the time a soaring blood pressure sent Tsigas to the hospital, she had classic preeclampsia symptoms. Yet, it took eight hours to transfer her to a high-risk hospital. It was too late, and her daughter didn’t survive. 

Two decades later, Tsigas honors her daughter’s legacy by serving as CEO of the Preeclampsia Foundation, which educates patients, trains providers and researches causes and cures. As the preeclampsia rate has increased 25 percent in the U.S., public and private organizations like CVS Health have joined the fight. 

Today, preeclampsia affects up to 1 in 12 pregnancies. It’s a top cause of maternal death and infant harm, and creates lifelong risks for heart disease and hypertension, says Joanne Armstrong, M.D., head of Women's Health for CVS Health. “The prevention of preeclampsia is a wellness strategy for women for their entire lifetime,” she says.

Photo of Joanne Armstrong, M.D., head of Women's Health for CVS Health.
“Preeclampsia is a top cause of maternal death and infant harm,” says Joanne Armstrong, M.D., head of Women's Health for CVS Health.

Preeclampsia risk factors include prior history, pregnancy with twins or triplets, hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease and autoimmune disorders. 

More U.S. women are also developing preeclampsia during the postpartum period, with 75 percent of related maternal deaths occurring after delivery. Because of health disparities, Black women are also three times more likely than white women to die from preeclampsia. 

Aetna, is using data analytics to tackle disparities. “By identifying and engaging patients at moments that matter during their health care journeys — such as before preeclampsia may arise for a high-risk mom-to-be — we can dramatically improve health care and even save lives,” says Daniel Knecht, M.D., vice president of Clinical Product for CVS Health.

High-risk members receive a prenatal care kit with educational materials, an appointment reminder card, and low-dose aspirin that can reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia. During the pandemic, high-risk women also receive digital blood pressure cuffs to support prenatal care visits from home. 

Tsigas says her story is but one of many, which is why she continues her search for answers. “This started off as a way to bring meaning to my daughter’s life and her death,” she says. “But it soon became apparent I was no longer doing this just for my own healing. I was doing this work because it needed to be done.” 

To learn more about the work CVS Health is doing to prevent preeclampsia, visit our page on "Creating safer pregnancies through preeclampsia prevention."

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Branches in Miami supports students and their families amid COVID-19

Branches in Miami supports students and their families amid COVID-19
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The coronavirus has touched all of our lives in one way or another. Children, in particular, are in an ongoing state of flux. Many classes in schools and colleges across the country have been upended. We did find an oasis in South Florida where an organization called Branches has been working diligently for over 25 years to serve the neighborhood’s youth and their families.

For the podcast (below) we spoke with executive director Brent McLaughlin and Kim Torres, Director of Student Services, and Branches partner Rosa Santiago — as well as students Kelson Baptiste, Vicshonda “Vicky” Bellany, and Melvin Amaya.

Aetna Better Health®, a Medicaid managed care plan in Florida, has a long-standing relationship with Branches as a community partner.

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A tutor with the Branches organization of Miami, Florida, assists a young male student with a school assignment on a laptop computer.
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National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics

Logo of the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics

We believe that we are uniquely positioned to address some of the health challenges communities across the U.S. face. To do so, the CVS Health Foundation has partnered with the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC) on a multi-year program, with grants awarded to free and charitable clinics nationwide to increase access to care, improve health outcomes and lower overall health care costs across the country in innovative and strategic ways. Since launching the partnership with NAFC, the CVS Health Foundation has delivered a total of more than $4.5 million in funding to free and charitable clinics across the country.


Increased access to care

Grants awarded in partnership with the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics have allowed grantees to increase operating hours and the number of patient visits, resulting in a decrease in the number of emergency room visits and improved patient compliance.

Our partnership with NAFC enables us to better identify and support free and charitable clinics that help to improve outcomes among patients with chronic conditions by offering a wide range of coordinated services, including screening, fitness classes, case management, and health education. Patients who benefit from these services are typically uninsured, underinsured, or otherwise unable to access a variety of health care services.

Learn more about how the Free and Charitable Clinics will be utilizing their grants to improve community health.

National Association of Community Health Centers

Logo of the National Association of Community Health Centers

At CVS Health, our purpose of helping people on their path to better health guides everything that we do. We are committed to providing our patients, customers, clients and the communities they serve with the resources they need to achieve this. In 2012, the CVS Health Foundation launched a partnership with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) on a multi-year program to award grants in support of the development of innovative, community-based programs that expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved populations and expand the focus on chronic disease and prescription drug abuse management and prevention. Since launching the partnership with NACHC, the CVS Health Foundation has delivered more than $5 million in funding to community health centers across the United States.


Combating opioid abuse in underserved communities

To address the growing public health change of opioid misuse and abuse, the CVS Health Foundation also turned to NACHC to help tackle the problem. Community health centers have a unique opportunity to address the opioid crisis and support drug abuse for patients in their communities. Through this partnership, grant opportunities are made available to community health centers that have established or plan to establish community-based care model for screening, identifying, engaging, and coordinating care for patients inappropriately using prescription medications and other substances. In addition to funding, grant recipients also receive access to free training, technical assistance, and coaching services, as well as the opportunity to tap into the collaborative power of health center teams and behavioral health integration experts.

Additionally, the CVS Health Foundation and NACHC convened a panel of experts to develop a protocol of best practices for community health centers on provider prescribing guidelines, medication-assisted treatment, behavioral health, and collaboration with other community organizations to treat and prevent prescription drug abuse among at-risk patients. These guidelines serve as a resource for community health centers receiving grants from this partnership to provide treatment for opioid addiction.

Learn more about how the National Association of Community Health Centers will be utilizing their grants.

A community health center fights back against opioid abuse

A CVS Health Foundation grant is helping the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center enhance their opioid abuse treatment programs.

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2017 and 2018 NACHC Community Health Grant recipients

Grant funding from the CVS Health Foundation helps the clinics serve those in need in their local communities.

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CVS Health invests $13.7 million to renovate low-income housing, fund community programs in Columbus

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Investment in South Linden’s Rosewind community kicks-off the company’s nearly $600 million commitment to address racial inequality

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) today announced it will invest $13.7 million to help renovate 230 low-income housing units at the Rosewind apartments in Columbus, Ohio. These funds will also be used to make significant improvements to the local community center and support new community programs in the area.

The investment kicks-off the company’s commitment of nearly $600 million over five years to address racial inequality and social determinants of health in Black communities.  This commitment includes an emphasis on increasing access to affordable housing, which is inextricably linked to health.

“When people have access to high-quality, affordable housing, it puts them in a better position to improve their overall wellbeing, including taking care of their health or managing a chronic disease,” said David Casey, Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Health. “One aspect of our commitment to address racial inequality is addressing social determinants of health – like housing – at the community level, which is where we can make a meaningful impact.” 

CVS Health will work with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) and the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing on the project.  Through CVS Health’s investment, CMHA will spend $50,000 per unit in much-needed rehab and repairs. 
  
“The redevelopment of Rosewind is part of CMHA’s $250 million investment in affordable housing in 2020,” said CMHA President and CEO Charles Hillman. “Stable housing provides a solid foundation, but people also need access to health care, employment, training and other services to reach their fullest potential. We’re excited to collaborate with CVS Health to provide new opportunities for our residents and revitalize the Linden community.”
 
Within the Rosewind complex in the South Linden neighborhood of Columbus, 95% of residents are Black and have an average annual household income of less than $17,000.  Average life expectancy in South Linden is just under 70 years – more than seven years shorter than the average in all of Franklin County, which includes Columbus and certain neighboring communities.

“Housing and health care go hand-in-hand, and health outcomes are impacted by housing affordability and stability,” said Peg Moertl, President and CEO, Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing. “We are pleased to be working with CVS Health and the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority to provide quality housing, economic support, and educational training opportunities to those families and individuals facing challenges in the Linden community.”

The renovations, as well as new community programming funded by CVS Health, will provide comprehensive local support to residents, including the following new on-site programs:

  • Health and wellness programming through CMHA and the Healthcare Collaborative of Greater Columbus to provide individuals with the best health care experience possible on-site;

  • On-site health screenings and COVID-19 testing to bring preventative health care services directly to the community, especially as the pandemic continues to expose health disparities among the Black population;

  • An educational cooking series with the nonprofit organization Local Matters, to increase access to fresh, nutritious foods and teach residents how to make healthy and tasty meals, which will improve their overall health outcomes;

  • Maternal programs – with 8.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in Franklin County and 25.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in South Linden, there will be a new program to support maternal health at Rosewind that will equip new and pregnant mothers with parenting resources; 

  • Community programs where individuals will have the opportunity to have an open dialogue about the root causes of systemic inequalities and barriers.

CVS Health will also establish a new program at Rosewind as part of its ongoing workforce initiatives to provide employment services and training to the Rosewind community, focused on empowerment and building local relationships that will help community members achieve meaningful employment opportunities. 

"Finding ways to encourage housing that is affordable to everyone is not just the right thing to do," said Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. "It helps the region remain competitive in attracting and retaining businesses."

Since 1997, CVS Health and Aetna, a CVS Health company, have invested more than $1 billion in affordable housing and community initiatives. In 2019, the company invested $67 million in affordable housing across the country, and the company plans to exceed that amount over each of the next five years to help address housing insecurities and promote community health improvement in Black communities. 

About CVS Health

CVS Health employees are united around a common goal of becoming the most consumer-centric health company. We’re evolving based on changing consumer needs and meeting people where they are, whether that’s in the community at one of our nearly 10,000 local touchpoints, in the home, or in the palm of their hand. Our newest offerings – from HealthHUB® locations that are redefining what a pharmacy can be, to innovative programs that help manage chronic conditions – are designed to create a higher-quality, simpler and more affordable experience. Learn more about how we’re transforming health at www.cvshealth.com.

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Aetna Medicaid backed study finds school pantry programs help with food insecurity

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Aetna Better Health of Florida’s School Pantry Program collaboration with Feeding South Florida played a key role in addressing the growing trend of food insecurity in the communities it serves

As National Hunger Action Month kicks off this month, it’s important to note that one in four children struggle with hunger every day.https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/child-hunger-facts And kids struggling to get enough to eat are more likely to have problems in school and are often affected by other social determinants of health including lack of access to quality health care, economic instability and living in neighborhoods with fewer resources that promote health such as grocery stores, parks and recreational facilities.https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-nutrition,https://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/hunger-health-impact-poverty-food-insecurity-health-well-being.pdf, https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/he/schoolfoodpantries.asp Identifying and addressing the social determinants affecting children are key components in improving health outcomes and reducing health disparities.

For many children and their families, schools serve communities as trusted resources. Teachers, administrators and school staff are often aware of a family’s struggles with social determinants of health, including food insecurity. A school pantry can provide low-income students and their families access to nutritious food.Food Pantries in Schools, California Department of Education, https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/he/schoolfoodpantries.asp,School Pantry Program, Feeding America, https://www.feedingamerica.org/our-work/hunger-relief-programs/school-pantry This is especially true in South Florida where families that were already struggling were also faced with additional hardships as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.This Southern metro area has become the epicenter of the coronavirus — and food insecurity, NBC News online, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/southern-metro-area-has-become-epicenter-coronavirus-food-insecurity-n1233903

A partnership is born

In 2018, Aetna Better Health of Florida® (ABHFL) donated $125,000 to Feeding South Florida (FSF). FSF is the sole Feeding America food bank serving Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. The one-year funding donation was part of the health plan’s strategy to address the growing trend of food insecurity in the communities they serve. A portion of the donation established a farmer’s market-style School Pantry Program (SPP) for 130 families with students at Melrose Elementary School in the Brownsville section of Miami. The twice-monthly SPP provides nutritious items such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a true pantry with shelf-stable foods that are available on an as-needed basis for families with urgent requests.

It is widely known that without proper nutrition, children cannot concentrate or perform well in school. Children who have poor nutrition often experience stunted development, this can cause chronic health issues and impact the capacity for academic achievement and future success. Evidence shows the health of students is strongly associated to their academic achievement.Santos R, Huerta G, Karki M, Cantarero A. Social Determinants of Overweight and Obesity Rates by Elementary School in a Predominantly Hispanic School District. J Pediatr Nurs. 2017;37:8-12. doi:10.1016/j.pedn.2017.08.02,Jyoti DF, Frongillo EA, Jones SJ. Food insecurity affects school children’s academic performance, weight gain, and social skills. Journal of Nutrition 2005;135(12):2831–2839.,Johnson AD, Markowitz AJ. Associations Between Household Food Insecurity in Early Childhood and Children’s Kindergarten Skills. Child Dev. 2018;89(2):e1-e17. doi:10.1111/cdev.12764,https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics/pdf/health-academic-achievement.pdf Published May 2014

As such, partnering with an organization like FSF, and supporting food distribution programs in high-need communities, gives Aetna the ability to better understand the social determinants of health issues facing members in specific at-risk communities. Having this information, helps case managers provide members with the most appropriate local social services, allowing families to focus more on education instead of worrying about where they will get their next meal.

That’s why it was important from the get-go for the health plan to engage the Florida Institute for Health Innovation (FIHI). Running alongside the program, FIHI used pre- and post-survey data and focus groups to conduct an independent, qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the Melrose SPP on students’ health, behavior in school, and performance in the classroom through the collection of survey and focus group data.

Access to nutritious food: A catalyst for student success?

The post-survey data suggests that almost 20% of household groceries for respondents came from the SPP, demonstrating a significant contribution to household food security. Respondents were also asked if the SPP allowed them to “meet their food needs for the month.” Fifty-one percent (51%) answered ‘Yes’ and 74% shared that the program increased their ability to eat nutritiously. Of the parents that participated in the pre- and post-survey, there was a 12% increase in parent’s self-reporting their child’s overall health as “excellent.” This emphasized the qualitative evidence from the focus group, in which one parent shared that her children were no longer pre-diabetic after participating in the SPP.

Overall, participants in both the surveys and focus groups underscored the impact of the SPP on behavioral outcomes, reducing familial stressors associated with hunger, and improving their child’s health. When asked about the SPP in relation to students’ performance in school, participants noted that having access to food was a catalyst towards ensuring their children could focus on school without worrying about eating.

“I have five children at home, and it has been hard sometimes to tell them that there wasn’t any milk,” said one parent. 
Another parent shared how their children’s behavior changes when they become concerned about access to food, stating, “They get nervous when they see the refrigerator getting empty.”

Next steps

Since the conclusion of Aetna’s one-year SPP funding contract and the FIHI study, ABHFL has maintained its collaboration with FSF through a $120,000 grant for FSF’s new Mini-Mobile Farmacy (MMF). The MMF is a mobile grocery store that goes directly to at-risk populations and provides nutritious food, interactive public health programming, and a food “farmacy” that personalizes the link between food and wellbeing for food insecure individuals with chronic health concerns.

“Aetna has brought a tremendous amount of recognition and respect to the SPP,“ said Sari M. Vatske, executive vice president of Feeding South Florida. “As a result of our collaboration, FSF’s Feeding Futures School Pantry Program was able to extend the Melrose SPP through an official partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools and received an additional year of funding with the help of County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson.”

About National Hunger Action Month

September is Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month, a month where people all over America stand together to support food banks and to spread the word to act on the hunger crisis and dedicate ourselves to a solution.

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How healthy food is healing Massachusetts

How healthy food is healing Massachusetts
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Community Servings in Boston, Massachusetts, started in 1990 as a program to feed a small group of AIDS patients suffering from malnutrition. It has turned into a community hub that provides thousands of medically tailored meals each month, job training, and so much more. The COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed their work. In fact, it’s increased demand and CVS Health stepped up to help them hire a temporary workforce of kitchen staff and delivery drivers.

While the restaurant industry continues to struggle, many individuals are going back to work, cooking for their community. The local Plumbers Union donated their trucks and their time to help ramp up deliveries. Over the course of two months, these on-demand solutions helped Community Servings distribute 27,000 entrees to Boys & Girls Clubs, homeless shelters, and others.

David Waters, CEO, points out, “It's the community serving the community. We can accomplish so much together.” In addition to the team featured in the video above, we caught up with COO Kevin Conner, executive chef Brian Hillmer, and Training Kitchen program graduates Ricardo Mercado and Jermaine McNeill, who explain how they make it all happen in this month’s podcast episode.

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Pharmacists Teach

Educating students and parents about prescription drug misuse

Prescription drug misuse and abuse can impact our nation’s youth, who face peer pressure and a lack of knowledge about the dangers of misuse.

As part of our ongoing commitment to help educate the public about the challenges surrounding addiction, CVS Health created Pharmacists Teach, a no-cost educational prevention program that provides students and parents with information about prescription drug misuse and abuse.

Since 2015, Pharmacists Teach has reached more than 560,000 students and parents nationwide and that number continues to grow.

Student-focused education

Since 2015, CVS Pharmacists have delivered education to students in grades 6 through 12 at schools, youth organizations, and faith-based groups. Led by one of our pharmacists, students have been able to learn the facts and hear stories that share how the lives of other youth were forever changed by misuse or abuse of prescription drugs.

Now, we are excited to announce CVS Health and Discovery Education have partnered to further expand the Pharmacists Teach program into the classroom with a no-cost prevention program, Dose of Knowledge. This program provides standards-aligned resources to educators and pharmacists across the U.S. This program strives to empower educators and pharmacists to address substance misuse and educate students to make good decisions for the health and well-being of themselves and their community.

Youth presentations can be delivered to groups of any size, from small groups to large assemblies, and is delivered at no cost to the school or organization.

Parent-focused education

Research shows that children who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don’t get this information at home.DEA/ED. Growing Up Drug Free: A Parent’s Guide to Prevention

With this in mind, we expanded our outreach to create a prevention education program for adults to encourage parents, caregivers, friends and family members to talk about prescription misuse and abuse by arming them with knowledge about commonly abused drugs and how to identify the signs and symptoms of prescription misuse and abuse as well as helpful tips and tools needed to navigate challenging questions and answers around the topic.

“Prescription for Parents” includes impactful videos of real life stories and is led by a pharmacist who can answer questions about prescription misuse and abuse.

This presentation can be delivered to groups of any size at school parent meetings, community centers, religious organizations, and company meetings.

Contact us

If you’re interested in bringing these programs to your school, community or business, email us at PharmacistsTeach@CVSHealth.com.

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Pharmacists Teach

1,100

adolescents, on average, state to misuse prescription pain relievers each day.

Aetna and Lyft to give schools access to essential rides for families

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Aetna, a CVS Health company (NYSE: CVS), today announced it will give $100,000 in essential rides for families in school districts around the country such as Chicago, Denver, Baltimore and Seattle, in collaboration with the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and Lyft to help families this school year.  

Aetna Senior Vice President of Public and Labor Erich Twachtman explained, “By teaming up with NSBA and Lyft, Aetna is demonstrating our commitment to addressing the social determinants of health (including access to transportation) during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Specifically, this contribution will help public school students and their families prepare for whatever the new school year looks like during this extraordinary crisis.”

This collaboration is an expansion of LyftUp – Lyft’s comprehensive effort to expand transportation access to those who need it most. A significant challenge among these school district families is securing transportation to complete essential trips. “By activating LyftUp, we’re able to help them get to grocery stores and food banks and access other essential services,” said Lisa Boyd, director of Social Impact at Lyft. 

NSBA has identified high risk communities in targeted locations across the country who will benefit from this program. Here’s how the program works:

  • Transportation challenged families in rural and disadvantaged areas will receive Lyft codes.
  • The Lyft codes are valued at $20 and $40.
  • The codes have a 60-day expiration date but can be used multiple times within the sixty days until the full dollar amount has been used.

Students in need and their families can access the ride-sharing resources at www.lyft.com/lyftup.

“NSBA is happy to collaborate with Aetna to provide much needed support to public school students and families who are struggling during this pandemic,” said Anna Maria Chávez, National School Boards Association Executive Director & CEO. “We value our relationship with Aetna and Lyft and look forward to collaborating on future initiatives that expand opportunities and increase equitable access for our nation’s school children.”

About Aetna 

Aetna, a CVS Health business, serves an estimated 38 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental and behavioral health plans, and medical management capabilities, Medicaid health care management services, workers' compensation administrative services and health information technology products and services. Aetna's customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, health care providers, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, visit www.aetna.com and explore how Aetna is helping to build a healthier world. 

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COVID-19 testing for vulnerable populations

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Over the past several months as COVID-19 has hit communities across the country, many people have been asked to stay at home.  But for certain populations, like those who many not be able to afford to stay home from work, essential workers, and people without a permanent home address, quarantining is an even more difficult task.

In some cases, taking public transportation to work or family housing dynamics in homes or apartments may make it more difficult to socially distance or quarantine, which could lead to an increase in possible exposure to COVID-19. There are varying types of barriers that individuals in underserved communities may face that make it difficult to follow all of the public health guidelines recommended to combat the pandemic.  At the same time, lack of access to testing for COVID-19 for some populations can make the pandemic an even greater challenge.

As part of CVS Health’s expansion of COVID-19 testing, we have partnered with community-based organizations to provide testing solutions to at-risk and underserved populations. This includes working with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) in Phoenix, Arizona, an organization dedicated to feeding, clothing, housing and healing low-income families.

Beginning in May, CVS Health partnered with St. Vincent de Paul to provide COVID-19 testing at the nonprofit’s Virginia G. Piper Medical & Dental Clinic for the uninsured. Because of the population the clinic serves, the CVS Health and SVdP teams worked together to quickly adjust many standard practices – such as waiving the need for a home address and working with the state of Arizona to ensure people who test positive are given resources and next steps on safely quarantining. Signage and discharge papers are provided in Spanish and English, and most of the on-site CVS Health staff is bilingual, to ensure that patients feel comfortable talking about their health care needs and next steps in their preferred language.

“We’ve seen an amazing response from our community-based testing site in Phoenix,” said Dr. Garth Graham, Vice President of Community Health and Chief Community Health Officer, CVS Health. “We’ve been able to rely on St. Vincent de Paul’s strong presence in the local community and build on CVS Health’s commitment to supporting underserved populations.”

Regular patients of the St. Vincent de Paul clinic who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 are referred to the testing center within the clinic. Patients receive their results within 15 minutes which allows the on-site team to act quickly on next steps and provide them with the added resources they need to safely quarantine and get on their path to recovery.

"We're extremely grateful to CVS Health for helping bring COVID-19 testing to the uninsured patients we serve at St. Vincent de Paul," said Dr. Maurice Lee, SVdP's chief medical officer. "Not only are we increasing access for people who might otherwise go without medical diagnosis, but we're also gaining a better understanding of the spread happening within vulnerable populations and in our community as a whole."

Find no cost COVID-19 testing in your community.

CVS Testing Center associate with swabs
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