Charmekia Martin is Director of Strategic Engagements and Partnerships for Anthem and Amerigroup DC chats with D.C. Editor Micha Green on {AFRO }Live. (Screenshot)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor
mgreen@afro.com

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the challenges the Black community has historically had in terms of maternal, behavioral and overall health and access to healthcare. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Anthem and Amerigroup DC had been working diligently to positively improve overall healthcare options for vulnerable Washingtonians.  With the pandemic further illustrating that every resident is one step away from being vulnerable, Amerigroup DC has worked to partner with several organizations to strengthen the health and accessing healthcare for all Washingtonians.

“On a regular basis we’re busy, but with the additional layer of the pandemic, we’ve had an extreme, extreme amount of focus on how we can support the communities that we’re serving within the pandemic, outside of the pandemic, because of the pandemic, all of those things have definitely played a role in our new level of work requirements and things that we’re trying to do in the community,” said Anthem and Amerigroup DC’s Director of Strategic Engagements and Partnerships Charmekia Martin. 

“The pandemic has changed the need in terms of what the community needs.  It has really transitioned and highlighted opportunities and gaps and what we can do to fill them. So for ‘service’- members getting into care or the community getting into care- access has always been something that we’ve talked about in the District, but now there’s an additional layer.  I’m at home, how can I have access? So telehealth, telemedicine, prescription delivery and all those things have become even more important due to the pandemic,” Martin explained on AFRO Live. “We will be out of the pandemic one day, but when we come out of it, it will look completely different than when we went in.”

As Director of Strategic Engagement and Partnerships, Martin told the AFRO that she has “the fun job,” as she works “hand in hand with community partners.”  Community partnerships are key to Amerigroup DC because those are the nonprofits and people that help the organization’s members with access to healthcare or providing more healthcare workers, training and tools for a stronger, healthier community overall.

“At Amerigroup and under the Anthem umbrella, we like to look at what is impacting a members’ care.  So if a member cannot get to work, they’re truly not thinking about how they can get to the doctor’s appointment; or if a member has to choose between paying for a prescription or putting food on their table, they’re going to make the choice that’s better for their family. And so those are things that impact the whole health of a member and what I get to do is, I get to come in and work with great partners that are local to the community that help us resolve some of those issues,” Martin explained. “We are healthcare, so we are not the expert in transportation, we are not the expert in nutrition in some aspects, we are not the experts in education and workforce development, but we like to work with people who are.  People who are trusted in the community, who are doing the work in the community.  And we want to work with them so we can continue to support the whole person when it comes to the members that we service or the community that we’re working in.”

Amerigroup DC is partnering with a great deal of local organizations to address various health crisis access to healthcare challenges in the District. (Courtesy Photo)

Amerigroup DC is currently working with several community organizations including: Pathways to Housing, Martha’s Table, Mary Center, Mamatoto Village, Bridging Resources in Communities (BRIC) Tumaini DC and more.

“I’m so excited about the partnerships that we’ve been able to establish in the District more recently.  We had been working with partners already when we were servicing District Medicaid members, but we’ve been able to take that to the next level,” Martin said. “Some of them include Pathways to Housing. We have a pilot program with them that’s really going to highlight how homelessness and health really coincide together and what we can do to tackle that obstacle, so very excited about that. Martha’s Table, we’re working with them with a Maternal Health program. So they’ve already done some really amazing things in the District, and we’re just happy to be working with them, and so very excited about what we’re doing in that Maternal Health space that’s going to take away some of the obstacles and fund some of the families that they’re going to have in that program.  On that same Maternal Health track, we’ve been working with Mary Center… And if you are into doulas in the District, then you have heard of Mamatoto and we want to add to what Mamatoto is already doing.  So we did a scholarship for more people to be certified with some of the programs Mamatoto has offered, so that we can increase access to care in the District in that Maternal Health space.”

Amerigroup DC is also tackling behavioral health in a big way.

“Taking care of you doesn’t just include going to the doctor anymore.  It’s a mental thing, it’s physical, it’s all of the above, and it really encompasses taking care of the whole person. So on the behavioral health standpoint, we’re working with Us Helping Us- they’ve been a great partner with us over the years.  We’ve added to their food pantry and now we’re adding to their syringe program.  They have a syringe access program so we’re adding to that,” Martin explained.  

“And then Tumaini D.C. They’re a fantastic organization right out of Ward 7 and servicing children in Wards 7 and 8.  And they’re really digging in.  They’re doing group sessions, going into schools, they’re working with the students on how to overcome the obstacles that they’re facing and recognizing that everyone’s experiencing something different,” she said.

“And we’re also supporting BRIC,” Martin added.  “BRIC is working very, very hard in the community to overcome addiction and opioids and we’re working with them to be impactful in that space.”

“As the District of Columbia struggles with one of the highest opioid overdose per capita rates in the country, Amerigroup is providing resources to increase awareness about the opioid epidemic and access to Naloxone and other harm reduction tools to reduce fatalities,” said Amerigroup DC President Adrian Jordan in a statement submitted to the AFRO from BRIC.

BRIC shared their excitement about the Amerigroup partnership as the organization works to address the District’s growing opioid crisis.

“These alarming numbers show the need is great, our work is necessary and we thank Amerigroup DC for its support of BRIC’s efforts,” said Rosalind Parker, BRIC’s CEO.

“This pandemic is doing something to us all,” Martin added. “I’m so excited about what we’re going to be able to accomplish with some of the groups that we’re working with.  They’ve already done such great things and so when we talk about partnering with the best of the best, I think that we have done that in the District.”

Martin also explained that while Amerigroup DC is doing a lot of great things to support the community, everyone can help one another during these challenging times.  The past two years have made clear that while some people may appear more fortunate than others, all people are vulnerable to the health, economic, social and political horrors that have come from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it’s important now more than ever that we check on each other.  We say, ‘How are you doing,’ and we really mean it.  So if somebody doesn’t seem their normal self, maybe it’s an opportunity for us to have an additional conversation, because the way that we’ve been isolated in the pandemic, things have changed on a number of levels,” Martin said passionately. “Whether it’s employment, whether it’s education, whether it’s resources available, even as we talk about inflation, the holidays are coming up, the prices are going up, things like this are impacting our families day to day. So everybody is vulnerable at this point, everybody is impacted by what’s happening.  And so everyone falls under that vulnerable category- it’s just a matter of how vulnerable are they and what they’re experiencing.  So being able to check on each other, I know we’ve heard that so many times, but it’s really important to do now more than ever, because we’re not seeing each other.”

In order to support Amerigroup DC’s efforts, Martin encourages people to follow @Amerigroup on social media or go to www.Amerigroup.com and to be sure to also engage with the organization’s community partners.

“Following our partners, engaging with our partners is the best way to stay up to date on what’s happening right here in D.C., because our partners- they are ready to do some great things- and we are so excited about it,” Martin said.

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor