May 4, 2022
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services operates a COVID-19 “Community Care” program that provides wrap-around supports to ensure that everyone in Maine who tests positive for COVID-19 or is a close contact can easily and safely isolate or quarantine, regardless of socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, language, or other identities. The program provides access to safe shelter, culturally appropriate food, information about COVID-19 prevention in multiple languages, psychosocial support, medical and preventive care, transportation, outreach testing and vaccination, and facilitates applications for other resources such as emergency rent relief.
Forty (40) agencies across all counties in Maine contract with the Department to provide Community Care services. The Department collaborated with many of these groups to create and launch COVID-19 Community Care in June 2020. Since then, the program has invested $12 million to reduce health disparities related to COVID-19 through social supports, COVID-19 prevention activities, and vaccination outreach and education. This includes $7.1 million directly to ethnic and community-based organizations best positioned to develop solutions to the challenges faced by their communities.
To ensure access to services, DHHS provides daily coverage for referrals and coordination among partner organizations. Individuals or households affected by COVID-19 request support through community leaders, physicians, school nurses, 211 Maine, or directly online.
As of April 2022, the program has served an estimated 29,000 people through nearly 10,000 unique referrals. Of these:
- 30 percent of households served were supported by ethnic and community-based organizations that provide cultural brokering, culturally appropriate food, and language support to help families get the information they need to stay safe.
- 25 percent of referrals have been to households whose preferred language was not English, demonstrating the connection that these organizations have with their communities.
Maine has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 vaccination in the U.S. The Community Care team, in collaboration with the Maine CDC’s Office of Population Health Equity (OPHE) and the Maine Immunization program funds and provides technical assistance to a network of community vaccine promoters, including weekly meetings with subject matter experts and peers. Community Care also coordinates home vaccinations through our referral system for those who face substantial barriers.
Pop-up vaccination clinics, hosted by community partners with health care providers, are an important resource to improve vaccine confidence and meaningful access to vaccination for underserved communities. Vaccine promoters have hosted clinics in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, LGBTQ+ communities, rural areas, and other communities with barriers to accessing traditional sites and/or increased vaccine hesitancy.
Maine DHHS prioritized community-based approaches to help ensure that communities of color and those whose preferred language was not English could access COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccines. Trusted community leaders and agencies offered friendly and convenient clinics with transportation, interpreters, and other forms of assistance, with the support of DHHS. Today, vaccination rates among BIPOC communities exceed those of White Mainers. Our partners are now focused on rural Maine where vaccination rates are lower than rates in more urban areas.
Since June 2021, over 20 community-based organizations throughout Maine have offered COVID-19 testing. Bringing rapid antigen testing to community organization offices, community events, places of worship and even to the doorsteps of those who are in isolation or quarantine or have transportation barriers makes testing more available to those who lack access to the health care system. We estimate that these organizations have completed over 3,000 tests. Outreach testing facilitates contact tracing, isolation and links to treatment.
DHHS Community Care, in partnership with MaineHousing, has coordinated quarantine shelters in three locations in Maine for people who are experiencing homelessness, living in congregate settings, or in dense housing during isolation and quarantine. In most locations, on-site nursing staff and antigen testing has been available. Over 1,400 individuals have accessed Quarantine Shelter services in Maine since July of 2020, with one quarantine shelter remaining in operation.
This Community Care system, trusted by the community leaders that helped design it, detects outbreaks earlier, contributes to more robust contact tracing, acts as an entry point to connect communities with Maine CDC and other social services, and endeavors to create more equity in Maine’s COVID-19 public health response.
Maine DHHS remains committed to the equitable distribution and uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines and continues to accept social support referrals for those in isolation or quarantine.
Maine DHHS Community Care and Vaccine Equity grantees and key partners: AK Health and Social Services, All Inclusive, Aroostook County Action Program, Azerbaijan Society of Maine, Catholic Charities of Maine, Community Concepts Inc., Cross Cultural Community Services, Crossroads Youth Center, Downeast Community Partners, Equality Maine Foundation, Gateway Community Services, Golden Opportunity, Hand in Hand / Mano en Mano, Healthy Acadia, Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, Kennebec Valley Community Action, Lewiston Auburn Youth Network, Lights Out Arts Consulting, Maine Access Immigrant Network, Maine Association for New Americans, Maine Black Community Development, Maine Community Action Association, Maine Community Integration, Maine Housing, Maine Immigrant Refugee Services, Maine Immigrants' Rights Coalition, Maine Muslim Community Center, Multicultural Community and Family Support, New England Arab American Organization, New Mainers Public Health Initiative, Nomadic and Pastoralist Development, Penobscot Community Health Center, Penquis Community Action Program, Preble Street, Presente! Maine, ProsperityME, Spiritual Care Services of Maine, Sustainable Livelihoods Relief Organization, The Opportunity Alliance, Wabanaki Health & Wellness, Waldo Community Action Partnership, Western Maine Community Action, York County Community Action Corp.