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Churches partner to provide health, resource fair as COVID-19 ‘benefits cliff’ looms

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Four churches are taking health support directly to the communities they serve.

Health disparities have long impacted Black and brown communities, and as COVID-19 pandemic relief tapers off in what’s called “a benefits cliff,” organizers say churches are one way to continue support.

A Saturday health and resource fair at the Julia M. Carson Government Center, 300 E. Fall Creek Parkway North Drive, will provide the usual health support, but also go a step further by offering voter registration, vocational support and more. The center is on the city’s near-north side.

Church leaders say providing these services tie into the work they’ve been called to do as leaders of faith.

The federal and state response to COVID-19 brought extra health benefits and resources will soon change.

“The kind of safety that you had and the nonpremium payments, those things are getting ready to go away,” said Shonda Gladden, chief executive officer of Good to the SOUL, a human resources consultancy.

Four urban and urban-adjacent churches have partnered with IU Health for the community health and resource fair. It’s an extension of the Healthy Me program kicked off in 2020. It started as a data survey to find neighborhoods facing opportunity challenges.

“As those extra benefits and more-forgiving rules begin to whine down, we need to work harder as a community to help folks stay connected,” said David Craig with IU Health.

Saturday’s event will be packed with community fun and a focus on extended medical support to families, from flu shots and COVID-19 boosters to reproductive support and blood pressure screening.

“To ensure the community is thinking seriously about health and wellness,” Gladden said.

Other resources will include housing and job support, and support for those experiencing social isolation. Although not your typical health topics, all can factor into better health outcomes.

“We are the bridge, we are the connection that keeps conversations going, and that is really critical as these four congregations see their role beyond the walls of the church,” said Robin Nichols with Crossroads African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Church supporters say it’s important to center this community as we move into a new normal.

“All religious communities affirm that healing is A shared responsibility,” Craig said.

The free event will be from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.