Coronavirus WEB ONLY

BENTON HARBOR — Over the next two months, Benton Harbor residents will have access to a new health center aimed at addressing the COVID-19 disparities in the city.

The Center for Better Health, at 100 W. Main St., Benton Harbor, will provide flu vaccinations, mental health services, legal and social services navigation support, as well as financial advocate and insurance marketplace enrollment services.

The center is being made possible by a $1.2 million grant awarded to Spectrum Health Lakeland by the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, on behalf of the Rapid Response Initiative funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

In addition to the health center, the grant will support the purchase and distribution of personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing, hotspots to support the virtual learning needs of Benton Harbor High School students, and culturally resonant communications that reinforce key public health messages such as the importance of wearing masks, hand hygiene, social distancing, and contact tracing, according to a news release.

The center, which will be operated by the Berrien County Health Department (BCHD) and InterCare Community Health Network, will open on Monday and complete its rapid response by Dec. 30.

Drive-up COVID-19 testing will begin on Friday, Nov. 6, in the parking lot at Benton Harbor High School.

Lynn Todman, vice president health equity at Spectrum Health Lakeland, said that while Black residents only make up 15 percent of Michigan’s population, they represented a staggering 29.4 percent of the cases and 40.7 percent of the deaths in the early days of tracking COVID-19 data.

“In the past two weeks of available data, the state has seen significant progress in limiting the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, with Black residents accounting for 8.2 percent of cases and 9.9 percent of deaths,” she said. “This award will enable Lakeland to build on this progress by providing a rapid response to COVID-19 related needs in the Benton Harbor community.”

Nicki Britten, health officer for the BCHD, said this new health center will help in taking the holistic needs of individuals into account to promote optimal health.

Velma Hendershott, president and CEO of InterCare, said having COVID-19 testing services more readily available will play a key role in preventing further spread of the disease.

For questions on services, or continued updates on the project, call 408-2258 or email centerforbetterhealth@spectrumhealth.org.

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman