MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Community Education Group (CEG) will distribute 2,000 COVID-19 Relief Kits through 18 distribution partners through free and community clinics to low-income, uninsured or underinsured individuals.
The kits, which were packed with the help of Milan Puskar Health Right, contain two face masks, hand sanitizer, educational literature around HIV in the state, and a mini resource guide on the back of that that has phone numbers and websites, where to contact state resources for HIV testing, viral hepatitis testing, and services for substance use disorder. According to Marcus Hopkins, CEG’s policy director, who said the initial goal was to distribute around 400 kits. Still, once they realized how great the demand was, they went back to the drawing board and called additional sponsors for help.
Initially, we had gotten a grant from ViiV Healthcare to do some COVID-19 outreach and service projects around HIV. And then once we got notice that the demand was much higher than we originally intended, we got additional sponsorship from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Community Access National Network, based out of D.C. I don’t think we anticipated — again like I said, we didn’t think the anticipation would be so high, but we knew that the need was really great. West Virginia, we have a lot of the social determinants of health that lead our state to be one of the most disadvantaged in the nation in terms of healthcare access and healthcare literacy, access to services.Marcus Hopkins – Policy Director, CEG
In addition to these barriers, Hopkins said the geographic barriers posed by West Virginia’s terrain make commuting difficult, especially in the winter, which is right around the corner.
However, through these COID-19 Relief Kits, Hopkins said he and other organizations in the partnership hope to mitigate the struggles West Virginians face. These partners include homeless shelters, HIV service organizations, health departments, the Mingo Co. Housing Authority and some substance use disorder organizations.
Hopkins said the boxes with kits in them would arrive at distribution partners in the next couple of days, meaning they have set out to do exactly as they intended. He added that they want to make sure they have the capacity to do something similar in the future because there’s still a lot of rough roads ahead.
“Right now, going into flu season and the increasing numbers (of COVID cases) particularly in rural counties in West Virginia, one of the things we are concerned about is ensuring that the people who have received these backpacks make good use of them and that the tools that they are provided with help to decrease the burden of COVID in the state of West Virginia,” Hopkins said.