COVID-19 continues to impact and further disenfranchise many communities, including immigrants, migrants, the elderly, and others. The needs of these communities are complex and solutions require many stakeholders and partners.
Task Force in Maryland
Concerned service providers from community organizations, government agencies, schools, clinics, hospitals and health departments from the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland meet regularly via Zoom to address the many needs of vulnerable community members, including the elderly, immigrants and migrants, and others impacted and further disenfranchised by the COVID-19 pandemic. Started in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis, the grassroots coalition of over 100 engaged organizations make up the COVID-19 Vulnerable Populations Task Force which is facilitated by a community-based mediation agency. Tri Community Mediation is well known for its inclusive approach and is skilled in meeting facilitation.
The task force facilitators have secured funding to support ongoing activities and the majority of participating organizations engage as part of their regular activities and the mission of their work. These meetings take place both during the day and evenings to accommodate the varying schedules of participants.
The task force also carries out an average of three community “no contact” outreach events a month that offer free food, supplies, masks, hand sanitizer, at home test kits and flu and COVID-19 vaccines, as available. They also provide information about, health care, legal services, rental and utilities assistance, and other available community services. The food distribution is supported by specific grants and other supplies are donated. Events are held in different neighborhoods within three surrounding counties and take place outside at schools, parks or community centers. The change in venues and counties makes the events more accessible to different populations.
These events include Spanish- and Haitian Creole-speaking volunteer interpreters and service providers. The volunteers also translate informational and educational materials, broadening the task force’s local reach and impact. The efforts of the task force help build trust within the community--a key factor in COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and vaccine dissemination. The task force also provides area service providers and advocates a continual and focused snapshot of what is happening in the community, supporting a coherent understanding of the environment surrounding local vulnerable populations.
For those delivering health education, health care, and services such as s vaccines and health assessments, the task force offers members a grassroots opportunity to network with a gathering of community leaders, creating smoother avenues to build trust and reach the community. As needed, the task force also engages members in segmented workgroups, who meet separately, focused on healthcare access and COVID-19 related health information, behavioral health, information sharing, education/childcare, Latino/a/x communities, food donation and distribution, language, and housing.
The task force has not only reached thousands of community members with needed services and vital supplies such as food, they have also fostered solutions to pressing problems such as supporting immigrant parents navigating a virtual and technologically onerous school system and bringing attention to poor treatment and lack of linguistically- and culturally-appropriate services for community members seeking COVID-19 related health services. The task force’s unique mediation-led process has allowed issues that might normally arise between communities and state and county institutions during a time of high crisis to be solved peacefully and for relationships and problem-solving strategies to be strengthened.
By the Numbers
- Roughly 70 "no contact" outreach events
- Roughly 5,000 community members vaccinated
- Over 100 large-group meetings, and many sub-group meetings
The task force is an ongoing resource which monitors COVID-19 case surges and explains changing CDC recommendations and vaccine booster updates. It continues to provide a space for all voices to share their concerns and provide balanced input on equitable solutions.
Since the inception of the task force through October 2022, the task force has held roughly 70 “no contact” outreach events which has resulted in roughly 5,000 community members becoming vaccinated. The task force has held over 100 large-group meetings, and many sub-group meetings.