Methodist Healthcare Ministries Announces $75,000 Grant to City of Brownsville to Improve Local Broadband Access
Investment opens up access to broadband service at a critical time
Brownsville, Texas (January 25, 2021) – Last Friday, Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. – a private, faith-based not-for-profit dedicated to creating access to health care for low-income families and the uninsured – announced a $75,000 grant award to the City of Brownsville to help improve local broadband access. In a virtual press conference, President & CEO, Jaime Wesolowski joined City of Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez to announce the award, which will support planning for infrastructure improvements of Brownsville’s digital economy.
The event featured a panel discussion on the issues that impact broadband access and discussed how the initiative is a testament to the positive direction Brownsville is taking. In addition to Wesolowski and Mayor Mendez, the panel also also included, Jordana Barton, Vice President of Community Investment, Methodist Healthcare Ministries; Ramiro Gonzalez, Director of Government & Community Affairs, City of Brownsville; Alex Meade, Senior VP of Economic Development and Public Finance for Texas Regional Bank; Susan Schwarz Shepard, Chair of the Valley Zoological Association; Rene Gonzalez of Lit Communities; and Josue Plaza with ConnectBTX.
“Closing the digital divide in communities will play a critical role in our efforts to support resilient families and build thriving communities across South Texas,” said Jaime Wesolowski, President & CEO of Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. “The long-term impact of having strong access to broadband technology on the health, education and other social determinants of health in Brownsville make this partnership a priority for our organization.”
The announcement comes in response to the City of Brownsville and its community partners' advocacy for reliable and affordable broadband internet service to help close the digital divide and homework gap impacting residents.
Brownsville currently ranks as the worst-connected city in the country with the least access to fixed broadband, according to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA). The current COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for improved infrastructure to accommodate the increased need for virtual learning and telehealth opportunities. Additionally, as the Brownsville economy transitioned further into a digital economy, local leaders recognized the need to expand existing broadband infrastructure. Leaders have also realized that, in addition to adequate and strategically placed public fiber, they must create a plan to address and fill the other gaps in access that exist in the community: affordability of subscriptions, devices, and digital skills training and technical assistance.
Through this initiative, the City of Brownsville will receive the necessary support to increase broadband connectivity and thereby greater access to vital community resources that contribute to the health and wellbeing for Brownsville’s most vulnerable populations. Two key components include a telehealth plan to ensure access to quality care for Brownsville’s most disconnected constituents and a partnership with the Gladys Porter Zoo to support educational equity and demonstrate the importance of connectivity in helping Brownsville’s citizens and community thrive.
“In order to secure our future in the global economy we must close the digital divide. Over the past year we’ve been working diligently on understanding the issue and we are in the process of completing the broadband master plan,” said Mayor Mendez. “This could not have been done without the Alliance that we created made of up of BPUB, TSC, UTRGV, Port of Brownsville, BPUB, BCIC, and GBIC. Today we add two additional partners to that alliance in Methodist Health Ministries and Texas Regional Bank. I look forward to see how we can accelerate the adoption of telehealth through deployment of broadband solutions and also look forward to see the transformation of the Gladys Porter Zoo and the services they will be able to provide by having proper connectivity. These projects are two important milestones in our effort but only the beginning. We look forward to continued collaboration with our partners.”
About Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc.
Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. is a private, faith-based not-for-profit organization dedicated to creating access to health care for the uninsured through direct services, community partnerships and strategic grant-making in 74 counties across South Texas. Guided by its mission of "Serving Humanity to Honor God," Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ vision is to be the leader for improving wellness of the least served. The mission also includes Methodist Healthcare Ministries' one-half ownership of the Methodist Healthcare System, the largest healthcare system in South Texas, which creates a unique avenue to ensure that it continues to be a benefit to the community by providing quality care to all and charitable care when needed. For more information, visit www.mhm.org.