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Jacksonville, Fla. - May 5, 2022

An organization that offers affordable housing to people who need a second chance and a program that provides financial assistance to low-income families so they can visit with their newborn babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are among seven recipients of the Florida Blue Foundation’s annual Sapphire Awards. The awardees will share nearly $500,000 that will allow them to continue to focus on innovative ideas and programs to improve health equity in their communities.

The Florida Blue Foundation announced the honorees at its annual Sapphire Awards ceremony on May 4 in Orlando. The Florida Blue Foundation is the philanthropic affiliate of Florida Blue, the state’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan. Each of the programs, organizations and individuals is making a meaningful impact in their communities related to advancements in health equity.

“As a mission-driven company focused on helping people and communities achieve better health, we believe everyone deserves to have an equal opportunity to achieve their full health potential,” said Susan Towler, executive director of the Florida Blue Foundation. “By recognizing and rewarding excellence and innovation in those addressing the big issues in health equity, and collaborating with others in our state, we can advance solutions and remove barriers that will help improve health care access and strengthen the communities we serve.”

The awardees were selected through a robust external review process for their exemplary leadership, innovative ideas and excellence. They all have a track record of success in decreasing health disparities and improving health equity, which directly contributes to positive health outcomes.

Below are the individuals who were honored:

  • Mia Jones (Jacksonville) is the chief executive officer of Agape Family Health, a nonprofit health center that provides high-quality, affordable health care services for people regardless of their ability to pay. A former Jacksonville city council member and Florida state representative, Jones is a proven community champion who is passionate about improving health equity, access and opportunities for disadvantaged populations. Her life work has been focused on bringing more health care services to people through community health centers and public schools.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, she was influential in helping increase the availability of testing and vaccination sites. Jones was recognized with a first-place award in the individual category for her efforts to advance health equity and increase access to health care services for the uninsured and underserved. The $100,000 award will support Agape Community Health Center. Watch her video here.
  • Sonjia Kenya, EdD, MS, MA, (Miami-Dade) is an associate professor of general medicine and the director of community health programs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Driven by her belief that achieving health equity requires ongoing, meaningful input from populations suffering the greatest health problems, Dr. Kenya partners with community members to develop culturally acceptable health care delivery models. She leverages her role as an educator to engage community stakeholders in training graduate health students and clinicians about strategies to deliver effective care and reduce HIV disparities among minority populations. Kenya received a second-place award and the $50,000 will be directed to the community health programs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Watch her video here.

Below are the organizations that were honored: 

  • Pathlight HOME (Orlando), also known as Grand Avenue Economic Community Development Corporation, provides safe housing, support services and economic opportunities to men and women in Central Florida. Having served more than 7,000 individuals, the organization utilizes the “housing first” model to provide affordable, supportive housing while also offering culinary skills training, case management services, behavioral health counseling and employment support to help formerly homeless men and women move forward in life. This organization received a first-place award and $100,000. Watch their video here.
  • Children’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center (Fort Lauderdale) is an organization that provides medical care, case management, education, social services and other support to children and adolescents with chronic illnesses and development disabilities. The organization believes  no parent should have to choose between basic living expenses and quality medical care and services for their child with special needs. The nonprofit is committed to reducing health disparities, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for families of children with special needs, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. The organization received a second-place award and $50,000. Watch their video here.
  • IDignity (Orlando) is a nonprofit that helps low-income and disadvantaged people navigate the complexities and financial burden of obtaining legal identification, such as birth certificates, ID cards or license renewals, or Social Security cards. The documents IDignity obtains for its clients give them the freedom to apply for work or school, gain access to shelters, seek help from social service programs, open a bank account or cash a check, secure permanent housing, or overcome other obstacles to becoming self-sufficient. This organization received a third-place award and $25,000. Watch their video here.

Below are the programs that were honored:

  • The Mobile Outreach Clinic (MOC) (Gainesville) is a University of Florida program that delivers health care services to the medically underserved in low-income neighborhoods and rural areas of North Central Florida. Volunteers and care coordinators work together to perform social determinants of health (SDOH) assessments on each patient, which are used to create a customized care plan to address their unique social needs. In 2021, the program increased access to telehealth, built a “street medicine program” to provide care for the unsheltered homeless, increased the number of community health workers, and continued its daily clinic care. This program was honored with a first-place award and $100,000. Watch their video here.
  • ICU Baby’s Transportation Assistance Program (Miami) supports families with a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The program offers a financial stipend to offset transportation costs for low-income families whose visits with their baby in the NICU are restricted because of financial hardship. ICU Baby’s team of in-hospital volunteers witness firsthand the additional financial strain that having a baby in the NICU places on a family, regardless of their finances. This program helps ensure parents can be with their newborn when they need them most. This program was honored with a second-place award and $50,000. Watch their video here.

This is the 17th year the Florida Blue Foundation has presented the Sapphire Awards to individuals, programs and organizations in community health. Since 2005, the Foundation has presented 130 Sapphire Awards, totaling more than $6.3 million.

The Sapphire Awards were presented during the Florida Blue Foundation’s annual two-day Community Health Symposium. This year’s event focused on health equity and attracted nearly 600 people from the health care, government, higher education and nonprofit sectors. 

The event featured national and statewide speakers, panel discussions and networking opportunities focused on identifying solutions to reduce health disparities, improve affordability and increase access to high-quality care.

About Florida Blue Foundation

Florida Blue Foundation enables healthy communities by making grants, building coalitions and embracing solutions that create a meaningful impact in our communities. More than 6.5 million Floridians have received services as a result of our community investments since our founding in 2001. The Florida Blue Foundation’s programs are focused on advancing mental well-being, improving health equity, impacting food security and addressing systemic racism and resulting health disparities. Florida Blue Foundation is a trade name of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Foundation, Inc., an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, please visit www.FloridaBlueFoundation.com.

About Florida Blue 

Florida Blue, Florida’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield company, has been providing health insurance to residents of Florida for more than 75 years. Driven by its mission of helping people and communities achieve better health, the company serves more than 5 million health care members across the state. In total, Florida Blue and its affiliated companies serve more than 46 million people in 45 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., it is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

 

Media contact:                                                         
Ilyssa Drumm, 904-238-9153
Ilyssa.Drumm@FloridaBlue.com