Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Jeff Roe announced $5.7 million in grants to improve access to health care in rural Alaska. The announcement was made Tuesday at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in front of some of the organizations the grants will benefit.

Roe said in 2018 Premera committed to invest more than $100 million in communities the company serves. The money is meant to increase access to care in rural areas as well as to address behavioral health issues, particularly as they relate to homelessness.

“Our pledge reflects the obligation and the opportunity we feel as both a health plan and a corporate citizen to actively engage to make health care work better for all no matter their geography. By improving the health of rural citizens, as well, we also hope to bring down the cost of health care for everyone,” Roe said Tuesday.

Recipients include:

  •  $1.77 million to the University of Alaska Anchorage College of Health to expand the nursing programs at four of its campuses, including three in rural Alaska. UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen said the goal is to add 238 new nursing students over the next five years.
  • $700,000 to ANTHC to support the build of a new education health center in Anchorage.
  • $300,000 to support Community Health Aide/Practitioner training in rural Alaska including Nome, Bethel and Fairbanks.
  • $3 million to provide grants to rural clinics and community health centers and hospitals for medical equipment and other small capital projects.

Roe said the idea is to improve services so that people don’t always have to travel to Anchorage to get medical care and can be treated more often where they live. He said the investments will be made over the next three years.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly referenced the Alaska Native Tribal Health Care Consortium. The correct name for the organization is Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

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