NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Sentara Healthcare is establishing a series of grants at EVMS, ODU and NSU to decrease health disparities in underserved communities.

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The grants will help the four institutions identify and address critical issues that adversely impact mothers of color and underserved communities struggling with access to behavioral health.

“We are truly grateful for Sentara’s commitment to improving public health through research, technology and education,” said Bonnie Van Lunen, Ph.D., interim dean for the joint School of Public Health Initiative. “Their strong support has not only helped us pursue our goal of establishing a future joint School of Public Health but will also help us address complex challenges to improve health in underserved communities. These grants further strengthen Sentara’s strong legacy in the 757 region and beyond.”

Each of the two grants will be $1.5 million and are expected to launch in July.

The first $1.5 million grant project, co-led by Dr. Cynthia Romero from EVMS, Felicia Mebane from NSU and Van Lunen from ODU, is expected to create a comprehensive and integrated person-centered pathway for treating mothers with substance use disorder (SUD).

Its goal is to improve health outcomes in pregnant and parenting women.

“Sentara is pleased to work with ODU, EVMS and NSU through funding a $1.5 million maternal health grant to reduce morbidity and mortality during a woman’s perinatal care. This grant, and others like it, are about partnering with our communities to enable people to live their healthiest, most fulfilling lives,” said Howard P. Kern, president and CEO of Sentara Healthcare. “We are actively working to address health disparities and improve access to needed care and wrap-around services and resources that will drive lasting change in our communities. We have found that collaborating with other like-minded organizations and individuals helps us expand our reach into the neighborhoods that are most needy.”

The second $1.5 million grant goes to the Hampton Roads Biomedical Research Consortium to create a collaborative project led by Heather Richter, Ph.D., from ODU, Elizabeth Dungee-Anderson, Ph.D., from NSU and Mary Margaret Gleason, M.D., from Children’s Specialty Group, CHKD and EVMS.

It will help to address health-related social needs, activating child caregivers to utilize community resources and empower medical homes to support early childhood mental health and well-being.

“ODU is committed to working collectively with researchers across the region to truly address public health inequities in Hampton Roads, and we couldn’t ask for a more supportive partner in this effort than Sentara,” said ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. “Together, we will do transformational work that improves the health of our community.”