Trillium Health aims to serve more clients thanks to COVID funds

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Monroe County is handing out nearly $100 million in COVID recovery funds to 40 projects it calls “transformative initiatives.” One of the agencies getting a $5 million grant is Trillium Health. 

What started as an HIV/AIDS clinic decades ago is now a full service health care center for all.  With a focus on low-income, underserved communities including the LGBTQ community, Trillium Health offers primary care, pediatrics, gynecology, blood services, and a pharmacy all in the same location.  More recently, it has been trying to expand support services, too.

“In order to be healthy we need to understand the bigger picture. What are the barriers to health care?  It could be housing, it could be, ‘I’ve got a transportation or even a financial barrier.’ So, we do not turn anybody away,” explains Jason Barnecut-Kearns, the CFO of Trillium Health.

Many patients are food insecure, too which led Trillium to add a food pantry. On Thursday, when News10NBC visited, we met Tanika Tolbert.

“I am a mother of eight and a grandmother of 33 and with this program here it helps me feed my grandbabies and myself,” she explained. 

Tolbert has been a patient at Trillium for many years and the food pantry was a welcome relief.

“When I walked in and I saw the coolers, I’m like, ‘Yeah, it’s like a grocery store’ and it makes you feel like you’re actually going shopping instead of being thrown something you know? You have a choice to pick up a meal that you want to eat and that makes a big difference and I truly appreciate them,” she says.

It seems many others in our community need the help, too.

“Last year, we served 3,000 households with 118,000 pounds of food. This year, we’re already at 4,000 households and we’re on target to fill about 225,000 pounds of food, so you can just see that the need is increasing,” Barnecut-Kearns says.

Trillium Health will get nearly $5 million over the next four years through Monroe County to make the food pantry bigger and permanent. The food pantry is open to all of Trillium Health’s patients and clients, along with people who live in the zip codes 14607 and 14620.

The funding will also be used to hire outreach specialists who will be able link more people to wrap-around care and services.

“They’re going to be embedded at every access point into the agency. So they could be at a harm-reduction center so anybody coming through those doors can talk about their needs from a health perspective and understand all of the services that we provide and then we can connect them to those services,” Barnecut-Kearns explains.

The approach worked for Tolbert and her family and she’s ready to spread the message but first, she’s got Christmas dinner to make with the food she was able to get from the pantry.