New York University Grossman School of Medicine

A core strategy of NYHealth’s Primary Care priority area is to elevate the non-clinical workforce—specifically, Medical Assistants (MAs) and CHWs—and integrate them into primary care teams to improve patient health outcomes, reduce clinician strain, and support equitable career advancement.

Previously, NYHealth supported the New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare to design a statewide scan of the current functions and desired roles of MAs on care teams. Similarly, an understanding of on-the-ground experience is needed to effectively scale models of CHWs’ integration. In 2024, NYHealth awarded New York University (NYU) a grant to conduct focus groups with primary care providers and community health workers regarding CHW integration into care teams across New York State.

Under this grant, NYU will conduct a series of focus groups both upstate and downstate to elicit experiences and information from both CHWs and the clinical and community-based providers that employ and partner with them (e.g., academic medical centers, community hospitals, community health centers, physician practices). NYU will distill the findings into a research brief that summarizes themes and offers recommendations, share related materials with researchers and CHWs in other states, and promote its work through webinars and publications.

 

Project Renewal, Inc.

In recent years, New York has invested significant resources in expanding mental health care access, but an acute mental health workforce shortage is stymying those efforts.

The shortage affects hospitals and outpatient settings across the State, at all levels of the mental health care workforce, including for entry-level positions like psychiatric social health technicians (psychiatric technicians). Psychiatric technicians play a role in caring for patients with mental illnesses and/or developmental disabilities. They alleviate the burden on nurses and other clinical staff and promote safety by assisting patients with activities of daily living, providing coverage for 24-hour monitoring of high-risk patients, and conducting wellness checks. While demand for this work is forecasted to grow, the employee pipeline is inadequate. The workforce development sector has long recognized the value of supporting individuals with lived experience (e.g., homelessness, mental health disorders) to fill frontline positions, but these workers often face discrimination in the employment process and lack the training and support to manage their personal challenges. In 2024, NYHealth awarded Project Renewal a grant to pilot a workforce development training program to help address mental health workforce shortages in New York City while also creating a career pathway for individuals who have lived experience with homelessness, substance use disorder, justice system involvement, and/or mental illness.

Under this grant, Project Renewal will partner with NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H) to launch a first-of-its-kind psychiatric technician work training program. Project Renewal will recruit participants for a training program focused on patient care, health care settings, and executive functioning. To ensure participants can complete the training program, Project Renewal will provide comprehensive wraparound services such as housing support and transportation. H+H will host an intensive internship program that will create a pipeline for employment; successful participants are expected to be hired for technician positions upon completing the internship. Project Renewal will use the training program as a proof of concept to advocate for a New York State-approved program model paving the way for Project Renewal and other health systems to expand the program.

 

Health Care for All New York (fiscal sponsor: Hispanic Federation)

Historically, primary care has not been a core focus for consumer advocates in New York, but the landscape is changing.

Consumer advocates’ priorities are gradually moving toward those that align with NYHealth’s strategies to expand access to primary care and advance racial health equity. In 2024, NYHealth awarded Health Care for All New York (HCFANY) a grant to develop and implement a new consumer advocacy agenda focused on primary care.

Under this grant, HCFANY will focus on three core policy areas: expanded coverage, enhanced affordability, and improved accessibility of primary care services. Advocates will also explore opportunities to advance policies focused on rebalancing health care spending toward primary care, transforming the health care payment and delivery system to prioritize primary care, and strengthening the primary care workforce. HCFANY will educate and activate consumer advocates on primary care issues and use policy research and analysis; communications; grasstops leader mobilization; and administrative policy advocacy to advance its efforts.

Community Service Society of New York

NYHealth has a long history of investing in and partnering with New York’s consumer advocates, including successful efforts to (1) ensure that New Yorkers stay enrolled in health insurance and (2) protect them from crippling medical debt.

Coverage rates rose to historically high levels during the COVID-19 pandemic and the State is undertaking a massive effort to preserve those gains. NYHealth worked with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Community Service Society of New York (CSS) to stand up the Keep New York Covered initiative—an effort by community-based enrollers to conduct outreach and marketing to millions of New Yorkers to help them stay covered. New York now ranks among the top 5 states in keeping families enrolled in Medicaid, with close to 80% of those required to recertify remaining enrolled. Simultaneously, medical debt continues to be a crushing burden for New Yorkers; a recent NYHealth-commissioned study shows that approximately 740,000 New Yorkers had medical debt in collections on their credit records. But New York is making progress:  a coalition of partners, including CSS, has run the highly successful End Medical Debt NY campaign, with NYHealth support. Most recently, New York became only the second state in the nation to prohibit credit agencies from including medical debt of any amount on credit reports. Even with all this progress, there is more work to be done. In 2024, NYHealth awarded CSS a grant to maintain consumer advocacy and programmatic infrastructure to support statewide efforts to keep New Yorkers covered with health insurance and protected from crippling medical debt.  

Under this grant, CSS will harness momentum and continue to lead two signature campaigns. For the Keep New York Covered Initiative, CSS will lead a learning collaborative for community-based navigators and coordinate partners to lead on-the-ground outreach campaigns. It will also track and synthesize outreach and enrollment data and identify best practices. For the End Medical Debt NY Campaign, CSS will coordinate and strengthen the campaign to educate the public and policymakers about proposals to address medical debt. It will generate public engagement and earned media through consumer stories, presentations, social media outreach, and opinion pieces. CSS will also work to ensure effective and expedient implementation of existing medical debt reform policies.

West Side Center for Community Life (dba West Side Campaign Against Hunger)

Inflation, rising rents, and other factors have led to high rates of food insecurity in New York City, increasing demand on the emergency food system of food banks and food pantries.

Food banks are regional entities that source and aggregate food, while food pantries are community-based sites that provide people in need with free food. Food banks receive funding from the government to purchase food on behalf of food pantries. At West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH), demand for food has increased substantially. Many clients are also requesting more fresh produce and products from their countries of origin. In 2018, NYHealth awarded WSCAH a grant to launch a collective purchasing program among emergency food providers. That successful pilot program evolved into an alliance of eight of the largest emergency food providers in the City, called the Roundtable, working to increase food pantries’ ability to purchase healthy, fresh foods at affordable prices. In 2024, NYHealth awarded WSCAH a grant to enable more food pantries across New York City to procure competitively priced, fresh, healthy, culturally relevant foods for clients.

Under this grant, WSCAH will expand the availability of its collective purchasing program to more emergency food programs across New York City. It will identify and engage new food pantry participants, including smaller pantries. It will also develop an online ordering tool, provide technical assistance to additional pantries interested in making healthier purchases, and advocate for more direct funding that will provide food pantries more flexibility to purchase competitively priced healthy foods.

The Correctional Association of New York

In New York, more than 31,000 people are incarcerated in the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s (DOCCS) 44 prisons; more than half of them are Black or Hispanic.

Incarceration contributes to poor health outcomes and racial health disparities; life expectancy decreases by up to two years for every year spent in prison. Diet plays a role in this drop in life expectancy, as incarcerated people lack meaningful access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food. Fewer hot meals, smaller portions, lower-quality protein, lack of fruits and vegetables, and more ultra-processed foods have become the norm across prisons. The Correctional Association of New York (CANY) conducted a survey on the quality and accessibility of food in DOCCS prisons, revealing that individuals avoid eating meals provided in prison mess halls because of poor quality and a lack of healthy options; they preferred to eat food either purchased from the commissary or received in packages sent from home; and they would like more fresh fruits and vegetables to be made available. In 2023, NYHealth awarded CANY a planning grant to research the legal, regulatory, and procurement landscape governing food in New York’s prisons. CANY’s research findings highlighted system-level barriers to change, including centralized meal production and decision-making. In 2024, NYHealth awarded CANY a grant to recommend changes to improve the healthfulness of food available in prison commissaries. 

Under this grant, CANY will work with the Office of the State Comptroller and the Attorney General to examine existing contracts and identify possible changes to encourage healthier purchases and offerings. It will also work with the New York State Department of Health to assess whether healthier food standards for commissaries are feasible in New York. CANY will review how the recently issued executive order encouraging State agencies to purchase 30% of foods from New York producers could change purchasing for commissaries. CANY will also continue to track and publish data about people’s experiences with prison food, food-related programming, health care access and availability, and progress in commissary offerings.

 

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