Grossmont Healthcare District Partners with Local Organizations to Increase Needed Accessibility to COVID-19 Testing

Champions for Health loads test kits, courtesy of Grossmont Healthcare District, into their van to prepare for distribution in hard-to-reach communities

Distribution of Free COVID-19 At-Home Test Kits Meets Residents Where They Are

March 24, 2022 (La Mesa, CA) – During the most recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD) partnered with local organizations to increase accessibility to at-home testing to vulnerable residents.

The partnering organizations were chosen based on the populations they served, with a focus on those less able to acquire testing resources due to location, including rural residents, local tribal members, refugee populations, and residents at apartment complexes, work sites, and mobile parks.

San Ysidro Health, one of the local health organizations partnering with GHD, prioritized distributing over 900 at-home test kits to refugee populations in Alpine and El Cajon, as well as families in the rural Mountain Empire Community who frequently visit food pantries, community centers, and senior nutrition programs.

One family living in the rural area, whose son began displaying symptoms, contacted San Ysidro Health for assistance, bringing awareness to the impact of having a location where locals can obtain at-home test kits.

“The family is low income and didn’t have the means to make the 40-minute drive to Alpine to find an affordable test kit to buy or to travel to a test site location.” said Esther Matos, Program Manager at San Ysidro Health overseeing the distribution of the at-home test kits. “The trip would have been costly not only because they had to purchase the test kit, but also to buy gas fuel for their vehicle.”

Current testing locations, advantageous for those living in the city, are often hard to access for those living in more rural areas. Gas prices, distance to travel, and income are often barriers to residents living further away.

Schools have also been affected by the low supply in test kits. Volunteers in Medicine, whose organization is led fully by volunteers, donated test kits to Children’s Choice preschool, a location challenged by COVID-19 throughout the school year. The school has been closed several times due to teacher absences and parents who need testing to go to work.

“We saw the need of at-home test kits throughout East County as a mandatory demand to fill,” said Christian Wallis, CEO of Grossmont Healthcare District. “Having access to these test kits ensures our community knows when to keep themselves and others safe, limiting spread and bringing this pandemic to an end.”

Due to a history of underrepresentation in vaccine research and limited close-by County testing locations, test kits have also become an important resource to tribal members throughout the pandemic. As shown in County vaccination demographics, members in San Diego have one of the lowest populations vaccinated, with only 55% receiving vaccines so far. The low vaccination rate has resulted in high case rates for the community throughout the last two years.

The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, whose majority of their 300 enrolled Tribal Members live on the reservation, were able to keep the donated test kits at their local office for Member accessibility.

The Campo Band of Mission Indians and the Sycuan Tribal Government also received test kits for distribution.

Funding for the test kits come in part from State funding for COVID-19 relief, an allocation provided by the State Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom in the 2021-2022 State Budget. The GHD Board of Directors authorized use of these funds to cover a portion of the purchase of 7,560 at-home test kits.

Some COVID-19 at-home test kits are still available for the public at the Herrick Community Health Care Library, located at 9001 Wakarusa Street, La Mesa, CA 91942. Hours for pickup can be found here.