Meet the Blue Angels of Tucson

How El Rio Health, founded during the 1960’s social justice movement, adapted to serve residents through coronavirus

As the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s inspired many across the United States, history was being made in Tucson, Arizona. There, a small coalition of social justice activists began working with the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine to improve healthcare services in the city’s most underserved communities. Together, and with support from the city of Tucson and Lyndon Johnson’s Economic Opportunity Act, they were able to convert a 12-room juvenile detention center into Tucson’s first community health clinic: El Rio Santa Cruz Neighborhood Health Center.

More than fifty years later, El Rio Health continues to provide greater access to health care services for residents of Tucson. “The community literally brings its problems to our doorstep,” says El Rio CEO, Nancy Johnson. “And that gives us a unique opportunity to help strengthen and stabilize neighborhoods and the people in them.”

Never has that been more true than today, amidst the coronavirus. El Rio needed to adapt, and fast, to continue to serve Tucson residents and a greater scale. Staff, who were sent home for safety, needed to quickly learn how to use a new telehealth platform to provide care remotely. El Rio had to build and manage new drive-through testing sites, upgrade electronic check-in kiosks and deliver iPads to a hotel housing the homeless so doctors and nurses could remain in touch. To help El Rio with new technology and other resources it needs to adapt and continue its community services, Bank of America provided the organization with a $50,000 grant, part of the bank’s $100 million commitment to support local communities in need.

As nonprofits adjust to addressing increased needs in their local communities, Bank of America is committed to supporting them. Learn more about the bank’s $100 million philanthropic commitment to more than 1,300 nonprofits on the front lines, which is in addition to the company’s annual $250 million in philanthropic giving, as well as its $250 million capital commitment to assist local businesses.

09/18/2020


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