NNPA Newswire Report
As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing COVID-19 response efforts, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will invest more than $1.6 billion from the American Rescue Plan to support testing and mitigation measures in high-risk congregate settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and detect and stem potential outbreaks.
As COVID-19 cases rise among unvaccinated people and where the more transmissible Delta virus variant is surging, this funding will expand activities to detect, diagnose, trace, and monitor infections and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in homeless shelters, treatment and recovery facilities, domestic violence shelters and federal, state and local correctional facilities– some of the hardest hit and highest risk communities across the country.
“As we continue the vaccination program to get more Americans protected, it is important that we double down on our efforts to increase testing, especially in vulnerable communities,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
“Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we can make sure high-risk environments like correctional facilities and shelters for those experiencing homelessness have greater capacity for testing to prevent potential outbreaks and continue our nation’s progress in moving out of the pandemic.”
This funding will support expanded COVID-19 testing and mitigation measures for:
• Mental Health and Substance Use Providers: HHS, through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), will invest $100 million to expand dedicated testing and mitigation resources for people with mental health and substance use disorders. This funding provides supplemental funding to both the substance abuse prevention and treatment and community mental health services block grant state grantees for rapid onsite COVID-19 testing and for facilitating access to testing services.
• Funds are available to provide behavioral health services to staff working as contact tracers and other members of the COVID-related workforce, training and technical assistance on implementing rapid onsite COVID-19 testing and facilitating access to behavioral health services, including the development of onsite testing confidentiality policies, personal protective equipment (PPE), supporting mobile health units, particularly in medically underserved areas, and expanding local or tribal programs workforce to implement COVID response services for those connected to the behavioral health system.
• Shelters for People Experiencing Homelessness, Group Homes and other Congregate Settings: HHS, in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will invest $80 million to support state and local COVID-19 testing and mitigation measures among people experiencing homelessness, residents of congregate settings including group homes, and encampments.
State health departments will use this funding to hire workers to coordinate resources, develop strategies and support existing community partners to prevent infectious disease transmission in these settings. State health departments will also use this funding to procure COVID-19 tests and other mitigation supplies such as handwashing stations, hand sanitizer, and masks for people experiencing homelessness and for those living in congregate settings.
• Federal, State, and Local Prison Populations: HHS, in partnership with the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Federal Bureau of Prisons, will invest $169 million to advance testing and mitigation efforts in federal congregate settings.
• This will include funding to support routine testing and surveillance for outbreak and non-outbreak situations according to public health recommendations. This funding will also be used to support ongoing vaccination efforts and the necessary hospital costs associated with this pandemic.
• In partnership with DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs, HHS also announced that CDC is distributing $700 million to 64 state and local jurisdictions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in confinement facilities, including prisons, jails, and juvenile confinement facilities. These funds will allow facilities to implement COVID-19 diagnostic and screening programs for people who are incarcerated, staff, and visitors.
• Funds also may be used to support other activities, including COVID-19 contact tracing, isolation and quarantine strategies, infection control practices, and education and training on ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19 for facility staff and people who are incarcerated/detained.
• Local Domestic Violence Shelters and Tribal Shelters Supportive Services for Survivors of Domestic and Dating Violence: HHS, through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), will invest $550 million in the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program to support state and tribal programs for detecting, diagnosing, and mitigating infections for adults, children, and youth experiencing domestic violence and dating violence.
• This funding will also support cultural competency training and technical assistance for implementing rapid onsite COVID-19 testing and facilitating access to mobile health unit services for adult and youth victims of family violence, domestic violence, or dating violence and their dependents, including the development of onsite testing confidentiality policies, procurement of PPE, enhancing information technology, data modernization, and to coordinate confidential reporting with local health departments.