UT Health San Antonio awarded five-year, $5 million federal grant to expand access to Long COVID care

Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at UT Health San Antonio, is a principal investigator and contact for the federal grant that will expand access to Long COVID care in South Texas. She operates a Long COVID clinic at UT Health San Antonio.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, announced a five-year, $5 million grant to The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) to expand access to care for persons with Long COVID.

The grant is one of nine totaling $45 million to support existing multidisciplinary Long COVID clinics across the country in expanding access to comprehensive, coordinated and person-centered care for people with Long COVID, particularly underserved, rural, vulnerable and minority populations that are disproportionately impacted.

“This is such an amazing opportunity to expand what we already do regarding high quality of care for people who have Long COVID and integrate more multidisciplinary work with our experts at UT Health San Antonio,” said Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at UT Health San Antonio, and a principal investigator and contact for the grant. She operates a Long COVID clinic at UT Health San Antonio.

“More importantly,” she said, “we will do coordination of Long COVID treatment, training and education across South Texas.”

Lisa Smith Kilpela, PhD

The project is a collaboration with the Center for Research to Advance Community Health (ReACH) at UT Health San Antonio. There, grant co-principal investigators Lisa Smith Kilpela, PhD, Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology, and Palliative Medicine, and Joel Tsevat, MD, Division of General Internal Medicine, Long School of Medicine, will partner with Area Health Education Centers to lead community engagement and dissemination efforts to promote evidence-based implementation of Long COVID screening, diagnosis and treatment across South Texas.

The grant’s title is, “Comprehensive Long COVID Care for Underserved Communities: Innovative Delivery and Dissemination Models (Comunidad).”

Long COVID is commonly described as signs, symptoms and conditions that continue or develop after an initial COVID-19 infection, with people experiencing persistent, varying and potentially disabling health impacts. These challenges have profound implications for people affected, particularly underserved minority populations with a long-standing history of poor access to affordable, quality health care. Also, limited knowledge and acceptance of Long COVID among clinicians and others have contributed to delays in diagnosis and referral to appropriate services.

Joel Tsevat, MD

Health and Human Services calls the new grants “first of their kind.” They are designed to expand access and care; develop and implement new or improved care delivery models; foster best practices for Long COVID management; and support the primary care community in Long COVID education.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is supporting patients, doctors and caregivers by providing science-based best practices for treating long COVID, maintaining access to insurance coverage and protecting the rights of workers as they return to jobs while coping with the uncertainties of their illness,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Treatment of Long COVID is a major focus for HHS, and AHRQ is helping lead the way through grants to investigate best practices and get useful guidance to doctors, hospitals and patients.”

The full list of grantees may be found here: https://www.ahrq.gov/coronavirus/long-covid-grant-awards.html. Additional information about AHRQ’s efforts to address Long COVID may be found here: https://www.ahrq.gov/coronavirus/long-covid.html.

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