I remember experiencing shock, worry and disbelief as the world began shutting down when the COVID-19 pandemic first surged. Fast forward and it is hard to believe that we’ve lived with the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and its variants for nearly two years. Yet, as tired as we have become of COVID-19, it has not tired of us and continues to demand our utmost vigilance to remain healthy and keep those around us safe.

This pandemic is yet another crisis that has exacerbated so many of the persistent disparities experienced by Black and African-American communities. From physical and mental health to education, employment and finance, the pandemic has disproportionally wreaked havoc on our communities.

Despite the losses and disparities furthering the ongoing challenges we face, the Center for African American Health has deepened its resolve and works relentlessly to increas access to resources that support people in our communities to survive and thrive. We do our best to be in service as needs are presented and our commitment to you in 2022 is stronger than it has ever been.

Looking back

I am deeply proud of the work we have done that has had a direct impact on our community members. Since the start of the pandemic, the Center for African American Health has raised and distributed more than $195,000 in emergency funds to help individuals and families in our communities with the cost of basic needs – rent, utilities, food, medicine.

As a direct response to COVID-19, we have established Crisis Resource Navigation to provide Black/African-American Coloradans with access to free mental and emotional health supports and resources, including free virtual counseling sessions in partnership with Therapists of Color Collaborative which connects people with culturally responsive mental health care providers of color. We also received a donation from Amazon that has helped us invest more in our partnership with Mental Health First Aid of Colorado.

One of the most meaningful milestones of the last year has been the purchase of our new, permanent home at 3350 Hudson Street in the Northeast Park Hill neighborhood. At this location, we have been able to serve more people in our community with access to in-person physical and mental health resources, as well as the distribution of PPE and provision of COVID-19 testing and vaccine clinics. This has been a tremendous step forward for us and we look forward to seeing you engage with us and take advantage of services at this community hub of health and well-being.

Looking forward

Our new program year is off to a strong start, with virtual and in-person resources available.

We are excited to partner with Families Forward Resource Center to kick off Barbershop Talks, a program designed to engage Black/African-American men in conversations including topics of   parenting, relationships, family, health and social issues. We are providing this monthly opportunity for men to bond, network and create meaningful relationships in a safe space. The sessions began Jan. 18 with monthly meetings every third Tuesday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. To learn more and join the conversation, contact alan@caahealth.org or demetrious@familiesforwardrc.org.

Our popular Aging Mastery virtual program is back with a nine-week Zoom meeting series for people ages 50 and older who want to know more about healthy aging. We’re discussing exercise, financial fitness, relationship building, medication management and community engagement. If you’re interested in attending these Thursday sessions, contact morgan@caahealth.org.

Cardiovascular disease has long affected the Black/African American community at disproportionate rates. That’s one reason we’ve created, in partnership with the American Heart Association, Check.Change.Control, a program designed to help participants manage and take control of their cardiovascular health. For more information, contact morgan@caahealth.org.

We are also launching the People’s Health Empowerment Program, a new advocacy training experience created by our community for our community. For more information, please contact the PHEP facilitator, Jeff Campbell at sevensoldier@gmail.com.

In addition to new and popular programs, we’ll continue to offer regular COVID-19 and flu vaccine clinics at our 3350 Hudson home.

Finally, this year, we are celebrating our 25th year as an organization! 2022 also marks the 20th anniversary of our popular Annual Collaborative Health Fair. The theme of our health fair is “I’m A Masterpiece!” uplifting the value and worth of the Black/African American person, culture, heritage and history. The health fair will look a little different as we continue to navigate the surges of the COVID-19 virus and we’ll be holding a series of in-person screenings, services and virtual education sessions collaboratively with community partners, local businesses, and other health organizations to bring you access to critical health information, while offering life-saving health screenings.

We look forward to seeing you and hearing from you throughout the year. Stay well, be well and live well. And remember, each one of us is a Masterpiece!

 

 

Contributed by Deidre Johnson, CEO and Executive Director of the Center for African American Health.