New funding opportunity: Expanding syringe services programs capacity to respond to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had substantial impacts on the health of many people who experienced increased health disparities pre-pandemic, particularly people who use drugs and those who are unstably housed. Syringe services programs are a proven, effective component of community-based efforts preventing the spread of infectious disease from injection drug use. They have remained a vital frontline health service during the pandemic and provided essential services to PWUDs and other populations made highly vulnerable or experiencing health disparities.

In 2021, as part of the COVID-19 response under the American Rescue Plan Act and in partnership with collaborative Centers within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resources to support SSPs and expand their overall capacity to provide COVID-19 vaccination, education, testing and expanded services for additional adult vaccination were awarded to NASTAD and partner, AIDS United. This one-year demonstration project, with expanded authority to extend its impact beyond the first year, aims to strengthen the capacity of SSPs to serve as critically essential access points for COVID-19 vaccination services, general COVID-19 response interventions and broadened adult vaccination services for people who use drugs. This project will support the development and implementation of best practices for COVID-19 and other adult vaccination, either onsite or by increasing navigation to community-based vaccination. These strategies and activities will assist SSPs to implement comprehensive, sustainable COVID-19 vaccination and other vaccination services within SSPs, improve services provided and enhance national understanding of how to successfully reach PWUDs and offer diversified health services.

Overall project aims:

  1. Engage SSPs in COVID-19 vaccination planning, outreach, and delivery efforts within jurisdictions.
    • Enable SSPs to educate their clients/communities about COVID-19 vaccines, promote vaccination and address vaccine hesitancy issues.
    • Support SSPs to partner with existing vaccination providers to effectively reach PWUD or to become vaccination providers themselves, to receive vaccine supply from jurisdictions, and to offer co-located COVID-19 vaccination.
  2. Build SSP capacity and infrastructure that supports COVID-19 vaccination efforts while delivering effective harm reduction and infectious disease prevention services for people who use drugs.
    • Assist in development of long-term capability of SSPs to serve as vaccination providers for COVID-19, hepatitis A/B, seasonal influenza and other vaccines.
    • Support core SSP operations related to infectious disease prevention and control through supporting space, staff and supply needs (as permittable under federal law) without which reaching this population to provide immunization services would not be possible.

There are three tiers to this funding opportunity, described broadly below; SSPs are encouraged to apply to one service tier only. Organizations applying for multiple tiers will only receive an award under one of the following:

  1. Tier 1 – Vaccination Low Threshold Capacity Projects: 50 to 70 SSPs will be selected to successfully integrate or expand COVID-19 services, other adult vaccination services and/or implement vaccination navigation programs. Funded subawardees will link clients of SSPs to other community-based programs or services, effectively track implementation work and outcomes, and/or develop guidance and best practices that are replicable for other SSPs across the country.
  2. Tier 2 – COVID-19 Vaccination Demonstration Projects: 6 subawardees will be selected to expand SSP services to scale-up COVID-19 and general vaccination services and maintain infectious disease prevention services. Participating SSPs should have the capacity to start an expanded COVID-19 vaccination program and increase other COVID-19 and adult vaccination services quickly once resources have been made available.
  3. Tier 3 – Enhanced COVID-19 and Expanded Adult Vaccination Demonstration Projects COVID-19: 2 SSPs will be selected to facilitate long-term education and technical assistance, develop evidence-based best practices and generate replicable models of creating comprehensive vaccination services in SSPs. By creating Enhanced Vaccination Services Development Sites, these projects will design meaningful avenues for sustainability in the creation of increased vaccination services and opportunities for initial and long-term evaluation mechanisms related to this project overall.

This Request for Proposals addresses Tier 1: COVID-19 Vaccination Low Threshold Capacity Projects. For information on all three tiers, visit NASTAD’s website.

Assistance Throughout the Application Process

AIDS United is committed to assisting eligible applicants with the preparation of a complete and responsive application to the SSPs and COVID-19 Response Special Projects Fund. Our staff are available to answer any questions and to provide technical support. We prefer that you submit questions and requests for assistance via email to Christine Rodriguez, Senior Program Manager for Harm Reduction, at crodriguez@aidsunited.org 

Optional technical assistance (TA) office hours will be held at the following times during the open application period, during which AIDS United staff will be available to assist with any questions you might have. If interested, please sign up for a 20-minute slot at https://calendly.com/crodriguez-au/covid-ssps-rfp-office-hours. 

  • Tuesday, Nov. 16, 3-5 p.m. EST 
  • Friday, Nov. 19, 3-5 p.m. EST
  • Tuesday, Nov. 23, 3-5 p.m. EST 

Additionally, two technical assistance webinars will be held on the following dates for the purpose of providing clarification about the grant announcement and key application submission tips. Please note that the Tier 1 TA webinar on Nov. 18 includes information about submitting the proposal online. All application submissions must be sent via AIDS United’s online Grantee Community 

NASTAD, in partnership with AIDS United, was selected to manage this grantmaking and technical assistance initiative. In coordination with CDC, NASTAD and AIDS United are charged with soliciting, selecting, issuing and monitoring subawards of $100,000 each to 50 to 70 sites to successfully integrate or expand COVID-19 services, other adult vaccination service and/or implement vaccination navigation programs. Funded subawardees will link clients of SSPs to other community-based programs or services, effectively track implementation work and outcomes and/or develop guidance and best practices that are replicable for other SSPs across the country.

We are pleased to invite you to apply for a one-year grant from the Strengthening Public Health Systems and Services Through National Partnerships to Improve and Protect the Nation’s Health: Supplemental Funding for Expanding SSP Capacity to Respond to COVID-19 funding opportunity. Completed RFPs are due Nov. 29 at 5 p.m. EST

To apply, please upload your proposal responses within the online Grantee Community portalQuestions about navigating the portal? Check out our guidance by clicking here. Please also find links here for the Project Budget and Representation Table attachments required for your application. 

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