SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced the City of Syracuse will receive a nearly $600,000 federal grant to fund person-to-person outreach regarding COVID-19 vaccination and prevention to people at higher risk for the virus.

The city will use the money to create and implement “CARES for COVID-19 Response.” The CARES program will train and deploy Community Health Workers (CHWs) to engage with hard-to-reach residents, as well as people impacted by pre-existing racial and health disparities and unmet social needs that put them at higher risk for COVID-19.

CHWs, to be recruited and hired from city neighborhoods, will fill the gap in public information and outreach in areas with lower vaccination rates.

Ultimately, organizers hope more neighbors facing racial and health care inequities get vaccinated.

The CARES program target population includes:

  1. racial and ethnically diverse residents including Blacks, Hispanics, and East Asians;
  2. people living with mental, physical, and developmental disabilities;
  3. residents with chronic and acute health conditions;
  4. residents living in poverty; and
  5. aging residents. 

CHWs will be deployed to key neighborhood locations on a regular basis for outreach to residents. They will work with a toolkit of print and digital materials to support outreach, provide information, answer questions and connect residents with COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We need to dispel those rumors, deal with facts, and help to save lives,” said Larry Williams, Executive Director of Syracuse Community Connections. “And so these community health workers are absolutely going to be a life changing event here for us.”

The City partnered with the Center for Healthcare Workforce Development, the non-profit arm of the 1199SEIU Training and Employment Funds (TEF) and the Healthcare Education Project (HEP), in achieving the grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.