Centura Health's community impact fund demonstrates commitment to diversity and inclusion

July 1, 2022


INDIANAPOLIS — After George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, Centura Health President and Chief Executive Peter Banko said he heard a chorus of pleas from associates saying: "Peter, I need you to take action. I need you to do something."

Peter Banko, Centura Health's president and chief executive, describes at a packed session of the Catholic Health Assembly the community impact fund that Centura Health set up in 2020. The fund advances the system's commitment to diversity and inclusion by supporting community programs for diverse and vulnerable populations.
Jerry Naunheim Jr./© CHA

Floyd's murder in May 2020, which drew intense media coverage and sparked global outrage, prompted Banko to set up an action plan for Centura. Dubbed the Social Justice Framework, the aim is to compel the system to be intentional in its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

At a session June 6 at the 2022 Catholic Health Assembly, Banko and Dr. Oswaldo Grenardo, Centura's senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, discussed the Equity and Advancement Fund the system set up to increase its impact in underserved communities, one of the five pillars of the framework.

The fund's goal is to advance health equity across Centura's footprint in Colorado and Western Kansas by backing programs that serve vulnerable and minority populations. Centura is part of CommonSpirit Health.

For the first year, Centura earmarked $1 million for community impact grants and issued an appeal for applications. Grenardo said 90 organizations applied and their requests totaled $9 million. In the end, 19 organizations got grants of $25,000 to $87,000.

The programs the grants are funding include one at a cultural center in Denver to provide health resources to the Black community, one at Catholic Charities of Central Colorado to expand access to health services for immigrant and refugee families, and the Coal Creek Meals on Wheels service in Lafayette, Colorado.

Grenardo said there was a sharp learning curve the first year of grant making, prompting revisions for this year. Among the changes was to streamline what he called a "long, arduous" application process and to let organizations request multiple years of funding in one application. In addition, Centura is working with partners, including two foundations set up by professional athletes, to get matches for the system's grants.

At Banko's urging, the Centura board has approved $5 million for grants this year. Of that total, $2 million will go to programs that address food insecurity and behavioral health, which were identified as major needs in Centura's community health needs assessment.

Grenardo said the application process for this year just closed and 226 requests were submitted. Because Centura wants to spread funding across the communities its 19 hospitals serve, employee panels at each local ministry do the initial reviews. Grenardo pointed out that this year each of those panels includes a diverse member of the community.

Said Banko: "This is one of the best things I'm doing and we're doing as an organization right now. There's just such momentum in the organization around it and it's getting us in the community into places we had never been before."

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