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SEAHEC is awarded $6 million from the National Institute of Health Common Fund

SEAHEC, a local health education agency working in rural southeastern Arizona, was awarded 1.1 million this year, with an anticipated overall award of $6 million over 5 years, from the National Institute of Health (NIH) Common Fund, to initiate community-led research to improve access to Mental and Behavioral Health Services.

On September 27, 2023, the Southeast Arizona Health Education Center, SEAHEC, was one of only 25 community-based organizations nationwide, to receive an NIH “Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society” (ComPASS) award.  This funding will enable SEAHEC and its partners to work directly with community members across Santa Cruz, Cochise, Graham, and Greenlee counties to better understand structural barriers to mental and behavioral health services.

Called ‘Proyecto Juntos/Project Together’, SEAHEC will partner with Cochise Health & Social Services, Graham County Health Department, the Arizona Community Health Worker Association, Canyonlands, Chiricahua and Mariposa Community Health Centers, Winchester Heights Health Organization, Pinal Hispanic Council, and the University of Arizona Prevention Research Center, to better understand and respond to barriers to services. Local community input and leadership will be key throughout the project's anticipated ten-year duration.  With local health equity research groups to be established in each county, community members will have their voices heard not only on barriers to care but also to help in the design and evaluation of strategies to address and resolve barriers to care.

Proyecto Juntos/Project Together anticipates addressing lack of transportation, lack of insurance, lack of care coordination, and lack of access to culturally and linguistically appropriate health resources, among other barriers.

The ComPASS program provides an unprecedented opportunity for community organizations, like SEAHEC, to lead health-related research within their communities and is dedicated to fostering more meaningful collaboration among community organizations and researchers, enabling them to work as equal partners. This approach recognizes the unique knowledge and perspectives that community organizations bring to the table and the value they contribute to the scientific process. It also builds trust within the biomedical research enterprise, which is particularly important when working with historically underrepresented groups. NIH will gain valuable experience and insight into how to support successful future community-led health research. Each project will also contribute valuable data to a growing body of knowledge about social determinants of health and structural inequities.

“We are honored to be one of the select community-based organizations awarded the ComPASS funding.  We look forward to working with our trusted partner agencies and alongside our fellow community members to improve the health and wellbeing of our rural and border communities,” shares Gail Emrick, SEAHEC Executive Director, and Proyecto Juntos Principal Investigator.

“We are deeply grateful to receive this award which will provide us the opportunity  to continue addressing barriers to accessing needed health services in Southeast Arizona. We are excited to see the positive impact this collaboration will bring to our rural and border communities,” shares Brenda Sanchez, Proyecto Juntos Program Manager. 

For more information, contact: Gail Emrick, MPH at

This research project is funded through NIH Common Fund ComPASS

award # 1OT2OD035592-01



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