Emerson Health is committed to collaborating with our community partners to improve the health status of all those it serves, address root causes of health disparities, and educate the community in prevention and self-care strategies. To this end, we have created the Emerson Health Community Benefit Grant Program, which will provide a total of $50,000 each year to fund initiatives to improve community health needs from non-profit organizations and/or public entities.
➤ Announcing the Emerson Health 2023 Community Benefit Grant Recipients
Community Health Needs Assessment 2021 Priority Focus Area Highlights
The health concern that came up most often among interviewees and was discussed in all of the focus groups was mental health. There were concerns about mental health across age groups, income levels, and racial/ethnic groups. Interviewees also brought up a number of barriers specific to mental health that they found concerning, including: high costs of mental health care even with health insurance; difficulty navigating the mental health services system with or without health insurance; stigma; lack of mental health providers; long waitlists to see a mental health provider, especially for adolescents and individuals with no insurance or with Medicaid; lack of providers who understand the needs of specific patient groups such as domestic violence survivors, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ residents.
Adult mental health was one of the top five most frequently cited health issues among community respondents. Common health concerns indicated by providers included: adult mental health issues, alcohol and drug use among adults, and mental health issues among youth. About 2 in 5 community survey respondents prioritized providing more counseling or mental health services or expanding health/medical services for seniors. The majority of providers prioritized providing more counseling or mental health services.
Aging health concerns
Interviewees noted that the large senior citizen population continues to grow in the area, and the American community survey also showed a number of towns in the service area with a greater proportion of the population over 65 than the state. When community survey participants were asked about personal and community health concerns, aging health concerns was a top concern for respondents and/or their family and for their community. Aging health concerns was also cited by many provider survey respondents as a common health concern.
Economic insecurity also includes concerns around food insecurity and the cost of health care/medications. From 2019 to 2020, the unemployment rate increased by 200 percent in the primary service area and by 181 percent in the secondary service area, which was above the 196 percent increase across Massachusetts. When community survey respondents were asked about a change in their financial situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 1 in 6 respondents reported that their financial circumstances had gotten worse.
Interviewees and focus group participants described food insecurity described as a concern in the community that was exacerbated by COVID-19, as food pantries and other emergency food sources saw a dramatic rise in individuals and families looking for resources over the past year. In the community survey, availability of supermarkets and affordable healthy food options was a top concern for residents for themselves and the community at large. This was seen as a top concern across age groups. In the secondary service area, approximately 1 in 10 households received food stamps/SNAP benefits, which was just below the proportion for Massachusetts and more than double the proportion of households that received food stamps/SNAP in the primary service area. In the community survey, more than 1 in 10 respondents reported that a member of their household had not received needed medical care due to costs. When asked about the impact of health care systems issues for the community, about 2 out of 3 community respondents cited the cost of care/co-pays as a concern and more than half noted insurance problems as a community issue. About 7 in 10 providers cited cost of care/co-pays or insurance problems as community health care access issues.
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