September 20, 2021
BRUNSWICK, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), announced that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $940,140 to Mainehealth to make COVID-19 testing more accessible and increase testing among Maine’s disadvantaged, immigrant, low-income, and homeless populations. The funds were allocated through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which passed in March 50-49 with the Senator’s crucial vote.
“Once again, the American Rescue Plan is delivering vital support for Maine people amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator King. “As the Delta variant continues to spread across Maine and our state approaches new peaks in daily cases, it is clear that this pandemic is not done with us yet. This grant will help confront the growing challenge and expand testing for our state’s low-income, immigrant, and homeless communities who have been hit disproportionally hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m grateful for all the hard work MaineHealth has done throughout this pandemic, and am hopeful that this funding can make a difference for Maine people in need.”
The grant, part of the NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program, will fund a study led by Dr. Kathleen Fairfield of Maine Medical Center, the Maine Medical Center Research Institute (MMCRI), and MMCRI’s Vice President of Research Dr. Elizabeth Jacobs. Together, they will work with community partners to reduce testing barriers and encourage at-risk Maine populations to get tested regularly. The study will begin immediately with testing sites expected to open in these disadvantaged communities by the end of 2021.
“We know that we need to use a variety of strategies to contain this pandemic, including masking and equitable access to testing and vaccination,” said Dr. Fairfield. “This study is about how we make COVID-19 testing accessible and acceptable to populations who are at higher risk of contracting COVID, and build trust with the medical community.”
“This grant doesn’t just fund important COVID-19 research at MaineHealth,” said Dr. Jacobs. “It provides additional financial resources to our partner organizations so they can continue their essential work of improving health equity and community engagement with the health care system.”
The research team will follow 150 people from Greater Portland’s immigrant, low-income and homeless population for one year to see if their attitudes toward getting regular COVID-19 testing has changed and whether the interventions result in increased testing. As part of the study, MMCRI will work with local poverty fighting and health organizations including Preble Street and Greater Portland Health to expand access to walk-up COVID-19 testing sites in Portland.
This grant is the latest funding from American Rescue Plan to support Maine’s efforts to fight COVID-19. The historic aid package has already brought $41 million in funding for local Maine health centers; funds to make health insurance more affordable; along with support for vaccination, testing, tracing, and other key medical needs required to control the virus.