RICHMOND, Va. — Adira Foundation announced today that it received a grant award of almost $750,000 from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, an organization promoting health equity and seeking to improve the health outcomes of populations disproportionately affected by serious diseases. The funds will be used to improve specialty care access, delivery and utilization for 5,000 people living with multiple sclerosis in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia over the next three years.

Adira, a nonprofit national foundation, invests in better lives for people with neurodegenerative diseases, focusing principally, but not exclusively, on five disease states to start: ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), Alzheimer’s and related dementias, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

“Nobody goes to school to be a patient,” Adira Founder and CEO Greg Smiley said. “Navigating complex health challenges like multiple sclerosis can be crushing, particularly when specialty care is far away. Adira appreciates the support of our work, and the vital mission of the BMS Foundation. We are committed to reducing health disparities and inequities wherever possible towards the common good.”

The awarded funds will allow Adira to improve access, delivery and utilization of MS specialty care in rural areas of the four targeted states by bringing together an expanded coalition of community assets, working toward shared goals such as early health screenings and specialty care access through telehealth expansion, and listening to rural residents to pinpoint other priority interventions.

“People living with MS in rural communities face a number of unique barriers that can delay diagnosis and optimal disease management and impact a patient’s quality of life,” said John Damonti, president, Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation. “We are proud to support the work of Adira Foundation to build an innovative care and community engagement model in these regions with the goal of helping patients and their loved ones better navigate their MS experience.”

The project will also refine an existing neurodegenerative disease network navigation tool piloted in Virginia and accessible offline for areas with unreliable internet connectivity to link rural populations to treatment specialists and social support programs.

“This project allows us to help people with multiple sclerosis, but it also helps us take MS out of isolation,” Smiley said. “Both goals are important. The symptoms of MS are non-specific. People struggling with those symptoms could have MS, or they may have another issue—perhaps a different neurodegenerative condition, like Parkinson’s disease or ALS. From a bird’s-eye view, we take on those many common concerns people contending with these diseases face. Here that might include late or misdiagnosis, navigating options, or linking to specialists and treatment clinics far away.”

Adira will achieve its goals by building a broader chain of diagnostic screening events. Convenings of people navigating MS will test the network map tool—a web-based, searchable map of organizations offering services for neurodegenerative disease communities and offer ideas for improvements or additions of other services. Adira will establish intentional partnerships and community health event locations to reach minority and underserved populations in these rural communities.

Adira plans, with the help of local community health workers, to target neurology specialists and movement disorder clinics to screen a general population for MS. The effort will encourage MS-adjacent health and community organizations to help find, screen and cofinance interventions for these populations.

Smiley said: “We also hope screening not only for MS but for movement disorders more broadly is even more compelling for community-based organizations to participate in and support. Together we are creating a more integrated response for more people.”

The National MS Society chapters in the four target states estimate a combined 25,000 residents are living with MS. These three interventions will incorporate this population early and often in the program’s design and implementation.

The grant period begins in November and runs through October 2024.

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About Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation

The Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, an independent charitable organization, focuses on communities most at risk of suffering the impacts of serious diseases in regions of the world that are hardest hit. It empowers partners to develop and test innovative solutions to advance health equity and improve access to quality healthcare for patients. Grant making focuses on cancer, cardiovascular disease, and immunologic disease, as well as clinical trial diversity in the United States, and prevalent cancers in nine African countries, Brazil and China. The mission of the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation is to promote health equity and improve the health outcomes of populations disproportionately affected by serious diseases by strengthening healthcare worker capacity, integrating medical care and community-based supportive services and mobilizing communities in the fight against disease. For more information, visit Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation (bms.com).