A project to expand access for Covid-19 testing into rural communities could lead to an expanded partnership between a Buffalo physician practice and one of the region’s largest Native American communities.

Urban Family Practice started working with the Seneca Nation last year when the Buffalo practice began sending its mobile units to Seneca territory to provide testing. Next came a health fair.

Conversations soon followed between the two sides on how to expand health-care services as well as the possibility of partnering on a marijuana initiative to help treat mental health issues, said Dr. Raul Vazquez, CEO at G-Health, the Buffalo umbrella health care company that includes Urban Family Practice.

“We’re looking to create partnerships there," he said. “They had the same needs we had in our community, so they were really receptive.”

Vazquez also found himself working with the Erie County Department of Health for the first time in his 25 years practicing in Buffalo.

“Everybody gets in their own box and there was a disconnect,” he said. “The eyes can only see what the mind knows.”

Stressful times often lead to innovation. That’s been especially true during the pandemic, when many health care providers found themselves pinched economically.

Evergreen Health, which has focused on HIV/AIDS and more recently expanded into other chronic conditions, had conversations with providers serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Buffalo health care agency will take over two primary care practices from People Inc. and Aspire of Western New York.

Raymond Ganoe, CEO at Evergreen, said he hopes such nontraditional partnerships continue.

“It would be a shame if we didn’t learn our lessons from Covid and went back to the status quo,” he said.

The Visiting Nursing Association, part of Kaleida Health, was providing care in patient homes and and then became involved in Covid testing with the county health department, pastors from area churches and local libraries, said CEO Lisa Griesler.

Most agree the partnerships developed in the last 18 months will have a lasting impact on care delivery.

“I think there’s partnerships that will be sustained, though maybe at different levels,” said Mark Sullivan, CEO at Catholic Health, who said the pandemic led to collaborations not only with competitors but also with organizations they had never spoken to before.

“It’s easier to say who we’re not partnering with,” he said. “This really was a catalyst for action.”

Panorama Hispano is the regional news and information newspaper for Hispanic and other diverse communities.

US Hispanics are now the largest ethnic minority in the United States numbering 54.2 million as of July 2014. Serving: Buffalo, Rochester, Fredonia, Niagara Falls, NY and Erie, PA. Outside our Market area: Visit our affiliate at:

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