ITHACA, N.Y. –– Officials from the Tompkins County Health Department announced this week that they received a $40,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation to help with the county’s ongoing combination of the Public Health and Mental Health Departments.

The new funding will be used to implement a mobile COVID-19 testing team operated by the REACH Medical staff, which has an office in downtown Ithaca. They are targeting about 200 individuals around the area experiencing homelessness and hoping to collect samples from the group three times over the next six months, creating a surveillance testing program of sorts that will hopefully identify positive cases early and hopefully prevent any outbreaks among the homeless community. The Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency is also contributing funding for the program.

The grant comes as part of a rapid response grant opportunity called “Advancing Public Health in Communities,” and is the second of its kind received by the health department. The previous grant came in September 2018 and has been used for the aforementioned department merging, COVID-19 response and “to address structural racism and health inequities in our community,” according to the department.

“The continued support from The Kresge Foundation demonstrates their strong commitment to local public health and the COVID-19 response,” said Public Health Director Frank Kruppa. “The awards from Kresge, in addition to the ongoing support from our Legislature and County Administration, are allowing us to transform the work we are doing and leverage existing funds to strengthen existing partnerships in the community. We thank The Kresge Foundation for this support.”

The Kresge Foundation has awarded a total of $837,938 in grant funding to support 25 local public health departments dealing with challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We rely on our nation’s public health experts to advance and promote community health,” said Monica Valdes Lupi, managing director of Kresge’s Health Program. “In a rapidly changing environment, our ELPH partners have been able to adapt and pivot their work and advance strategic approaches to health in their communities.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com