West Virginia group offers funds for rural health outreach

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia nonprofit group said Friday that it is offering $1 million in grants to boost COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts and address HIV and other health issues in the state’s most rural and at-risk communities.

The Community Education Group said it is offering grants for health providers and groups serving people hit by homelessness, HIV, viral hepatitis infections or substance abuse.

“It’s an all hands on deck moment where CEG is ready to partner with faith organizations, community-based groups, nonprofits, and even businesses to reach all our neighbors, wherever they live in West Virginia,” CEG Executive Director A. Toni Young said in a statement.

Grants ranging from $750 to $2,500 are available for one-time events such as a food bank or small community gathering, while grants of $10,000 to $50,000 are being offered to established providers that have longer-term public health interventions in multiple counties.

Groups can apply for funding through Jan. 10.

“Together, we can create community partnership models that can be expanded and replicated throughout Appalachia,” Young said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia has the lowest rate of residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. There are about 7,275 active cases of the virus statewide, the highest total this month after three weeks of declines, according to state health officials.

West Virginia’s largest county, Kanawha, has one of the nation’s highest spikes of HIV cases. The state also has had the highest death rate from opioids in the country.

In August, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded the Community Education Group $3.5 million in funding geared toward health events for services such as coronavirus and flu vaccines, COVID-19 and HIV testing and test kits, personal protective equipment and wellness education.

In addition, CEG funds can underwrite countywide health care services such as supplementing nursing personnel costs, travel to rural areas and other measures.

The Community Education Group, founded in 1994, is based in the Hardy County community of Lost City, with offices in Washington, D.C.

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