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$40 million for TN to address health disparities for underserved populations

Nonprofits and churches to get funds to help improve outcomes.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Nearly 40 million dollars are heading to Tennessee to help address health disparities related to COVID-19 in communities of color. The money is coming from the Centers for Disease Control. The Tennessee Department of Health will be working with nonprofit groups and churches in those communities to determine how the money should best be used.

In South Memphis, the zip code 38126 is not only the home of the Stax Museum and legendary restaurant The Four Way, it also has the highest rate of poverty in Memphis, according to university of Memphis researchers. According to a 2020 Poverty report, 84% of children in that zip code live in poverty.

"I see it every day," said Arnita Brooks, daycare owner.

Brooks owns the MC Outreach Learning Center on Mississippi Boulevard. She says dollars to help address health issues for those in her community needs to be a high priority.

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"We need to something to put in place to help the less fortunate, because there is a lot of people in this area that is less fortunate," said Brooks.

"I'm a Memphian by birth. Memphis is home, so I am passionate about what happens in my community," said Dr. Kimberly Lamar, Tennessee Department of Health. 

Lamar said when it comes to the millions of dollars that will be spent in underserved communities, it won't be the state dictating what will be done with the money, it will be a holistic approach. The local nonprofits and churches in the communities will help decide how the money needs to be spent addressing COVID related disparities.

"It allows us to address chronic diseases, our mental health needs, substance issues. A lot of community environment type impacts such as housing conditions," said Lamar. Lamar called the amount of funding and how it will distributed "groundbreaking." 

"Even right now there is still a ripple effect of pain, anxiety, and depression which impacts condition that every 2 of 3 of our patients carry," said Will Jackson, COO of Christ Community Health Services.

Jackson said COVID has magnified problems for many of the more than 50,000 uninsured and under insured patients Christ Community Health Services serves each year. Jackson says the additional dollars will directly impact its patients

"While it sounds like a lot of money, the community that will receive the benefits of it will quickly absorbed the dollars just because of the need in these underserved areas," said Jackson.

As for Brooks, after spending much of her life in this south Memphis community, she says the health and poverty issue need to improve for everyone and especially for the little ones she cares for every day.