Connecting People and Resources
Nov 02, 2015
In Spring 2012, several individuals from the Lafayette County area were approached by the REACH Healthcare Foundation to come together to discuss an innovative approach to closing the gap for rural and underserved citizens to access quality health care. REACH named this initiative the Rural Healthcare Initiative (RHI) of Lafayette County.
Following the initial launch in 2012, the core team came back and gathered stakeholders in an effort to develop and launch an innovative idea to address gaps in access to care, specifically as it relates to the underserved. Individuals at the table represented the local hospital, behavioral health, social services, and a community-based nonprofit with a track record of providing solutions to increasing access to health care for rural citizens. Stakeholder group includes members representing business, the aging population, county commissioner and faith-based communities.
Initial meetings of the larger group of stakeholders identified a strong need to connect individuals to existing resources in the community, which were often overlooked or unknown. The stakeholder group worked with a local marketing firm to develop branding elements for the RHI that included a name, logo and tagline. A smaller core group was formed to work on the creation of the Community Connector.
The concept is now being referred to as Live Well Health & Wellness Community and this initiative has the backbone support of the Health Care Collaborative (HCC) and has gained tremendous momentum.
A Community Connector is a volunteer or an existing employee of the HCC/Live Well Community Health Center who is trained by HCC staff to assess the needs of an individual and guide them to available community resources. The Connector is responsible for screening an individual’s needs for health care or social services to determine the most appropriate direction to available resources within the community or elsewhere. Connectors are trained on current community resources available and will assist an individual with access to needed resources.
“Whether it’s someone who just got a utility shut-off notice, someone with an abscessed tooth or a family who needs food, the Connector helps individuals attain available community resources,” said Suzanne Smith, HCC’s network development coordinator. “Everything we do for the people we serve is confidential.”
Smith said one of the most common resources needed is money for utilities or rent assistance. Other resources needed may be transportation to a doctor visit or a food pantry, among other things. Smith added that each individual goes through a screening process to find out what the needs are.
Those helped by a Connector will receive a Lafayette County resource guide, specific contact information for the help they need, and follow-up from their Connector. There are 30 trained Connectors in Lafayette County and they are located at: Health Care Collaborative of Rural Missouri, Live Well Community Health Centers, Pathways Community Health, Missouri Valley Community Action Agency, Care Connection for Aging Services, Easter Seals Midwest, Lafayette County Health Department, Odessa Community Resource Center, Lutheran Good Shepherd Home, House of Hope, Children & Youth with Special Health Care Needs and Lafayette County Family Support Division.
In 2014, trained Connectors helped 60 different people in Lafayette County find needed resources. They also followed up with these individuals to see what additional support they needed. This equated to 130 encounters with those 60 people. Smith said the goal for 2015 is to connect 200 different people. Grant funds totaling $75,000 from REACH Healthcare’s RHI Initiative have been allocated to help reach this goal.
For more information regarding the Connector program, please contact Suzanne Smith, network development coordinator for HCC, at 660-259-2440.