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Santa Barbara County Based Non-Profit Launches $150 Million Dollar Health Equity Effort


A Santa Barbara County based non-profit known for helping those in need around the world with medicine, and medical supplies during disasters is taking on one of its most ambitious projects yet.

Direct Relief has announced a $150 million dollar program to try to tackle issues which affect the health of people in communities impacted by historic racism, and socioeconomic disparities.

Thomas Tighe is Direct Relief’s President, and CEO.  He says because of the non-profit’s extensive experience supporting, and working with community and free clinics around the country, it was asked to spearhead the effort.

Tighe says while the creation of the fund is just being announced this week, they already have a $75 million dollar commitment.  It includes massive financial commitments from biopharmaceutical giant AbbVie, and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Direct Relief’s CEO says the focus of the fund is to look past immediate health care costs, because there are different sources of funding for those efforts.  The idea is to listen to those providers, and fund projects which can create healthier communities.

Tighe says unlike many grant-givers, they won’t push specific projects, or goals.  They’ll let the community medical providers set the priorities.

Direct Relief has created an advisory board with some experienced people in the field to guide the grant process.  It includes Regina Benjamin, MD, the 18th U.S. Surgeon General of the United States, and the Founder BayouClinic, Inc; Byron Scott, MD, MBA, Board Director of Direct Relief;  Martha Dawson, DNP, MSN, RN, FACHE, President and CEO President of the National Black Nurses Association;  Jane Delgado, PhD, MS, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health; and Gail Small, JD, Head Chief Woman, a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

The “Fund For Health Equity” is kicking off with a big splash this week.  In addition to the $75 million dollar commitment, it will be one of the featured recipients of some of the fundraising efforts during the NBA’s All-Star Game Weekend.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.