The Center Executive Director Shelly Callahan, Excellus BCBS Regional President Eve Van de Wal, The Center Manager of Grants and Community Engagement Jennifer VanWagoner, The Center Health Access Coordinator Islam Mohamed, Excellus BCBS Community Investments and Partnerships Manager Shayna Keller.

Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield recently awarded the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (The Center) a Health Equity Award of $30,000 to support Maternal Health Equity for Diverse Populations.  This program builds on the CenteringPregnancy model that has been established by Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) by bridging the gap for diverse patients to access this innovative and patient-centered approach to maternal care.


MVHS offers the area’s only licensed CenteringPregnancy program, which brings 8-10 women all due at the same time together for prenatal care and peer support. The Center will add to this program by providing linguistically appropriate language services, cultural competency training, and transportation assistance.


“This project addresses the maternal health of an underserved population that has a distinct disadvantage to accessing services due to language and cultural barriers,” explains Jennifer VanWagoner, The Center manager of grants and community engagement. “Building on our longstanding partnership with MVHS, we will be able to address maternal health disparities experienced by refugees and immigrants utilizing a culturally and linguistically appropriate approach.”


“Funding from the Excellus BCBS Health Equity Award will provide interpretation during CenteringPregnancy education sessions and translation of program materials into a minimum of six languages,” shares VanWagoner. “Additionally, obstetrical staff will receive competency training focused on the specific needs of diverse populations.”


The Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting refugees, immigrants, and Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals throughout the integration process and helps them achieve independence and self-sufficiency by developing products and services that enable the building of a community with many cultures. The Center has resettled nearly 17,000 refugees from 36 nations since incorporating in 1981.


Excellus BCBS Health Equity Award funding supports underserved populations with health disadvantages due to race, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender and/or rural disparities. Award categories include, but are not limited to, improving the community’s physical health and mental health, reducing social disparities in health care, and ensuring access to health care services. Grant recipients were selected based on clear, defined goals and measurable results for reducing health disparities and improving health equity.


“We are proud to further our commitment to health equity by supporting The Center’s program that addresses the maternal health needs of our diverse refugee and immigrant population,” said Eve Van de Wal, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Utica regional president. “The addition of the services provided by The Center will increase access to the CenteringPregnancy program and help reduce maternal health disparities in our community.”


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