Trenton Health Team (THT), the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) and Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton are teaming up to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines, testing and information for Trenton communities hardest hit by the pandemic, with support from the New Jersey Department of Health ELC grant program. (En español)

Healthcare leaders and others have voiced growing concerns about inequities in vaccine access, with immigrants and communities of color especially affected. ELC grants, administered by the New Jersey Department of Health Division of Family Health Services and the Maternal Child Health Consortia, support expanded access to COVID-19 testing and vaccines, and training for community health workers to connect at-risk residents with needed services and reliable COVID-19 information.

“We are eager to work alongside LALDEF and Catholic Charities to make sure Trenton residents have reliable information about COVID-19 and access to testing and vaccines,” said THT Executive Director Gregory Paulson. “Overcoming health inequity requires teamwork and a focused, intentional effort. This grant enables us to continue making progress in Trenton’s battle against COVID-19.”

The purpose of the ELC program, said Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton Associate Executive Director Susan Loughery, “is to support an underserved, marginalized population. Equity for COVID vaccine access and testing is critical in order to achieve public health objectives.”

LALDEF’s Interim Executive Director, Lorraine Goodman agrees, adding, “LALDEF is thrilled to participate in this collaboration, which will save the lives of our immigrant neighbors — many of whom have provided the essential services we have all relied on over the past year. Health equity raises all of us; it is not a zero-sum game.”

ELC grants were recently awarded statewide to social service and healthcare agencies that provide life-saving services to vulnerable and underserved communities. This was through a partnership with the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium.

“We recognize that communities of color and other vulnerable groups have suffered more serious illness and death from COVID-19, yet often have fewer opportunities for testing and vaccines,” said Robyn D’Oria, Chief Executive Officer of CJFHC. “We believe these grants will help bring critical resources to people needing them most.”

In Trenton, community health workers at partnering agencies will receive special training through the New Jersey Department of Health’s Colette Lamothe-Galette Community Health Worker Institute to address client needs related to COVID-19 in culturally sensitive ways and expand access to needed services in vulnerable communities. In addition, THT will focus on community outreach, as Catholic Charities and LALDEF find new ways to ensure Trenton residents have access to testing and vaccines.

Catholic Charities will offer COVID-19 testing and vaccines, and provide telehealth services at its El Centro program located at 327 S. Broad St. They will also assist residents with vaccine pre-registration, appointment scheduling, technology assistance, and resource referrals for those who need transportation or childcare voucher. As a team, they will create wellness groups, work with vulnerable and hard-to-reach individuals through in-home engagement and provide safe spaces for immigrants to ask questions and receive information.

LALDEF will be developing written materials in English and Spanish available on site and disseminated to churches, local supermarkets, the Princeton Library lobby and around the community. Flyers will be posted on their social media sites and distributed via text messaging. LALDEF will also be assisting residents with vaccine pre-registration — specifically those immigrants who are not digitally literate — through telephone or in-person assistance in Spanish and/or English

Additionally, LALDEF will be working with Catholic Charities to develop their headquarters as an outpost for its Virtual Exam Room and as a vaccination site and host informational webinars in Spanish and broadcast through Zoom and Facebook live. These videos will be  made available on LALDEF’s website.

“This project reflects the strength and commitment shared by local community agencies,” Paulson said. “Trenton faces many challenges, but one of our greatest assets is the collaboration among health care and community partners to enhance health and well-being throughout our City.”