by Sharmila Rao Thakkar, MPH, MPA, and Frank Blanceró, Staten Island Not for Profit Association/Staten Island COAD
The Staten Island Community Organizations Active in Disaster (SI COAD) and its Medical Ecosystem (MES), a coalition managed by the Staten Island Not for Profit Association (SINFPA), has been active in COVID-19 pandemic response since March 2020 when operations completely shifted to meet the public health needs of communities throughout the Island. Staten Island has been one of the New York City boroughs with among the highest COVID-19 rates, the least vaccination hubs, only two hospitals and no public hospital, and the least accessible transportation options for communities hardest hit by COVID-19.
Barclay-Giel Seed Grant support has helped the organization quickly respond to community needs, coordinate resources, and facilitate collaboration to strengthen local response. In partnership with the Office of the Staten Island Borough President (SIBP), healthcare and social service providers and response agencies, they launched a virtual Emergency Operations Center. An Incident Command System team, with representatives from both Island hospitals, primary care physicians, skilled nursing facilities, community organizations, and the SIBP, began meeting daily to discuss challenges and advocate to the city/state for resources. For more than 18 months, the coalition has addressed needs around supplies, staffing, patient flow and care protocols, testing and vaccinations, providing communications and training, and sharing guidance on mandates, funding, and relief opportunities. The SI COAD-MES Steering Committee, with leadership from healthcare and nonprofit organizations and the SI Long Term Recovery Organization, meets weekly to brainstorm action plans and partner on assessment, outreach, and response. The Value of a Borough Disaster Preparedness Coalition in Bridging Gaps Notable accomplishments through the pandemic include:
- Consistent, Reliable Communications: Targeted emails to sector partners, social media channels, and the EverBridge Alert System share the latest guidance, resources, and funding opportunities.
- Establishing a Community Ambassador Network: Over 70 key contacts from human services, medical, public safety, and city agencies, were recruited to serve as trusted voices to amplify messages. They are the “eyes and ears” on the ground through which vital information and resources travel quickly in both ways.
- Hosting Community Town Halls: Over 400 participants have been reached by partnering with healthcare, community, and faith-based organizations to address vaccine access and hesitancy.
- Issuing Borough-wide Needs Assessments & PPE Distribution: Determining level of urgency and organizational needs for PPE and other resources was an immediate priority. In partnership with the SIBP, the group secured donations of supplies and raised $30,000 to purchase supplies. More than 240,000 units of KN95, 3-ply and cloth masks, gloves, face shields, and hand sanitizer have been distributed to community groups, healthcare organizations, and first responders.
- Implementing Staten Island: Stay Strong, Stay Safe Public Messaging Campaign (#SIStayStrongStaySafe): The campaign provides sample text and graphics to adapt and share, video PSAs, and social media posts about the Core 4, getting tested and vaccinated.
- Broadening Vaccine Education and Access: Coalition partners are working with group homes and the developmentally disabled population, adult care and skilled nursing facilities and congregate care settings to get vaccines to seniors and those homebound.
- Convening the Staten Island COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce: The taskforce has promoted boroughwide communication, coordination, cooperation, and collaboration to increase vaccination rates. Two working groups, comprising staff from medical/ healthcare and human services organizations, elected officials, and community leaders, have focused on Pop-ups and Creative Partnerships and Vaccine Trust and Messaging.
- Organizing School & Community Vaccination Pop-up Clinics: By coordinating partnerships between schools, community centers, pantries and pharmacies, youth and families have been able to access vaccines at a trusted site and via mobile health vans. Education webinars for parents prior to pop-ups have helped alleviate concerns.
- Leadership in City-wide Committees: Advocacy and collaboration with partners such as NYC Department of Health, NYC Emergency Management, NYC Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Nonprofit New York, and NYC COVID-19 T2/Vax (Test/Trace/Vaccine) Community Advisory Board, have been invaluable to local response and recovery efforts.
For more information about the SINFPA and its Staten Island Community Organizations Active in Disaster-Medical Ecosystem coalition, visit www.sinfpa.org.
Volunteers staff a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Staten Island, NY