Jennifer Sweet: Investing in Florida’s communities is investing in our future

Fairlawn Village in Orlando
Florida is our community. This is our future.

In my role as the leader of Aetna Better Health of Florida, a CVS Health company, I get to channel energy to improve the well-being of our communities, and I’m particularly excited about the investments we’ve been making to address housing needs and food insecurity.

I joined Aetna Better Health of Florida as CEO in 2020 because I knew I’d have a special opportunity to support under-resourced local communities. In addition to being a trusted partner to the state and an effective steward of taxpayer dollars, we have a basic mission to help our Medicaid members lead healthier lives.

We approach that mission holistically, providing access to quality medical and behavioral health care, and supporting the social care needs of communities.

For example, since 2020, CVS Health has invested $24.8 million in affordable housing, across eight Florida counties, creating or restoring more than 1,000 units.

I’m honored to have shared with fellow community leaders the excitement of providing access to new homes that offer important support services such as on-site adult literacy services, employment assistance, financial management programs, as well as developing Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) units with case management and other individual support.

We invested in Fairlawn Village in Orlando, which includes 116 family units, 20 of which are PSH units for people experiencing homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, persons with a disability, or youth aging out of foster care.

A community partner will provide services for PSH units specifically designed for those experiencing chronic homelessness and opportunities for our members facing housing insecurity.

In Tampa, which was ranked last year by Realtor.com as third in the nation for highest rent increases year-over-year, we celebrated the groundbreaking for Uptown Sky, an investment that will provide 61 affordable units for families earning below the area’s median income. Resident services will include health care services, resident activities, financial counseling, computer training, homeownership opportunity programs, first-time homebuyer seminars, and welfare-to-work or self-sufficiency programs.

Our investment in Cocoa helped significantly renovate 183 low-income family units with upgrades that included new roofing, windows, flooring, exterior and interior doors, painting, kitchen counter and cabinets, and energy-saving appliances. Of these, 47 PSH units are designated for survivors of domestic violence, persons with disabilities, and youth aging out of foster care.

In addition, a part-time family support coordinator will facilitate various activities and training to assist adult residents with improving their self-sufficiency, employability, and health care through tutoring, computer training and other creative and educational activities.

Addressing food insecurity has been a passion for our Aetna Better Health of Florida team. Aetna provided $342,000 in financial support to food banks in the state last year.

In addition, Aetna donated $135,000 last year to Feeding South Florida® to help roll out the Mobile Food FARMacy in Miami.

Combining the resources of the mobile food pantry and the Jesse Trice Health Center, my team established a 12-month health improvement program for our members. Members receive certified nutritional counseling, healthy recipe cards and monthly checkups to monitor their health journey.

Following the success of this program, we’re investing an additional $135,000 with another organization in Jacksonville and will soon announce a second unit for this area.

Our previous work with Feeding South Florida included a donation of $125,000 to support its Feeding Futures School Pantry Program, which provides students with access to fresh foods and shelf-stable items.

Working in partnership with Feeding South Florida and the Florida Institute for Health Innovation, the program addressed the impact of food insecurity on students’ health, behavior in school, and performance in the classroom through the collection of data. The program has reached thousands of South Florida families, promoting healthier outcomes and better academic achievement for students, and supporting parents and caregivers dealing with hardships and the stress associated with not having sufficient access to healthy food.

Heading into next year, Aetna Better Health of Florida is again energized and ready to build on this legacy of investment in Housing and Food Assistance. We’ll continue to invest in under-resourced communities and focus our work on individuals and families that need the most support.

Florida is our community. This is our future.

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Jennifer Sweet is CEO of Aetna Better Health of Florida, Inc., a Managed Care Plan with a Florida Medicaid Contract. The benefit information provided is a brief summary, not a complete description of benefits. For more information contact the Managed Care Plan. Limitations co-payments and/or restrictions may apply. Benefits, formulary, pharmacy network, premium and/or copayments/co-insurance may change.

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