Tag Archives: outreach

Helping People as a Whole

mestrada2012Last month, we sat down with Migdalia Estrada, a Community HealthCorps Navigator at StayWell Health Center in Waterbury, CT. Migdalia’s role at StayWell comprises reaching out to individuals in the community to help them learn more about StayWell’s services. In the audio clip below, we prompt Migdalia to share what works well about this outreach. Migdalia also elaborates upon the impact of outreach in the community, sharing how outreach can help people “as a whole.”

Migdalia’s Interview

Something for Everyone in Your Family: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

By Heidi Elsinger, CHCACT Outreach Programs Manager

Food insecurity is an issue facing many people in Connecticut. The term refers to not being able to obtain enough food to meet your basic needs at all times. According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), about 15% of households in Connecticut were faced with food insecurity at some point during the previous six month period.

snapThere is help available for those who need it. In addition to the state’s food banks and pantries, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly Food Stamps) helps people purchase the food they need. Eligibility for the program is tied to the federal poverty limit and household size, and benefits are determined based on the household’s expenses. You can still qualify even if you own a home and/or a car.

People who receive SNAP can shop for foods they prepare at home at grocery stores, farmer’s markets, bodegas and corner stores. SNAP benefits can also be used to purchase seeds. So, if people have the space, they can use their benefits to save money by growing their own food at home.

snapbannercroppedThe program exists to support people in meeting their basic food needs. Several successful and in some cases famous people including lawyers, politicians and athletes have used the program when they’ve needed it to make ends meet. Click here to see some of SNAP’s alumni.

Click here to find a SNAP Outreach worker who can help you find out if you might qualify and help you fill out an application.

This program is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Funded by the US Department of Agriculture.

Health Centers’ Reach: Why Cuts to Health Centers Hit Hard

Guest post by Jesse Grant, Outreach Coordinator at Charter Oak Health Center in Hartford

As an outreach coordinator for a federally qualified health center, I am on the front lines every day in Hartford. The people I meet and the experiences I have all have led me to believe that everyone should have access to health care. Unfortunately, a new proposal from Governor Malloy would decrease the income limit for parents on HUSKY A from 185% to 133%. The people who would lose access to HUSKY under this proposal are parents of children and are living very close to the poverty line. They will not be able to afford to buy health insurance on their own, as they often cannot afford some of the most basic things in life, like a new pair of shoes for their children or nutritious food for their families. I feel so strongly about this that I testified to the Connecticut General Assembly asking them to reject this proposal.

Charter Oak Health Center

Charter Oak Health Center

Fortunately, everyone can get quality health care at health centers like Charter Oak, because no patients are turned away. But without HUSKY, many of these parents will lose the sense of security it provides and they may put off their own health care needs as a result. And health centers like Charter Oak do rely on HUSKY for some of the funding that is necessary to keep them running and to continue to provide needed services.

In my role at Charter Oak as an outreach coordinator, I spend every day in shelters, churches and at city events, seeking out people to try to re-engage them in their health care. The individuals with whom I work are down on their luck but they can come to the Charter Oak Health Center and get the services they need, regardless of whether or not they can pay for it – and they will be treated with respect.

A health outreach fair at Charter Oak

A health outreach fair at Charter Oak

Just this week, I met a family from the war-torn country of Sierra Leone – a woman, who had been raped and shot repeatedly; her father, who had hidden in the jungles for years; and her boyfriend, who had been run over by a car. They had endured years of war and personal harm and are now in America. At Charter Oak, we are going to get them the services that they need to build their new life. Where else can they go to get the health care and other services they need?

That’s why health centers like Charter Oak are so important for our state. Health centers – and their patients – need support from legislators in Connecticut.

The Challenges of Community Outreach

This is a guest post by Migdalia Estrada, Community HealthCorps Navigator at StayWell Health Center in Waterbury, CT.

mestrada2012My role as Community HealthCorps Navigator is to do community outreach for StayWell Health Center in Waterbury. StayWell currently has a few projects taking place in the community. For one thing, there are shockingly high numbers of dental caries in particular areas of Waterbury amongst children and their families. We offer a program called SmileBuilders, which gives free cleanings to children who have HUSKY. It is a mobile dental unit that visits every school in Waterbury, and some in Naugatuck. While we think we are overcoming every barrier to preventive health care, not everyone re-enrolls the next school year. We have thus been strategizing various parent engagement and retention techniques in order to make sure my outreach will be effective.

In addition, we have been doing outreach to the elderly in the Waterbury area. Oral health care seems to be the first thing to go amongst the elderly, and we want to make sure they are receiving the proper preventive care. I have sent out numerous letters, made tons of phone calls, and am visiting nursing homes/senior centers to see if they would benefit from our mobile dental unit.

Community HealthCorps Navigators volunteering at a service project

Community HealthCorps Navigators volunteering at a service project

I have also been contacting various local agencies to do staff presentations regarding the services we offer. The health of the community has many components, from the mental to the physical. We make sure that other agencies that treat individuals recognize an opportunity for referral to our health center, if needed.

Throughout the year I also attend several health fairs. Recently I attended a health fair and put together a sugar demonstration that showed how much sugar was in various popular drinks (such as Monster, Vitamin Water, iced tea, etc.). The general response from everyone is shock at how much sugar they are actually taking in. One student in particular demonstrated surprise, then shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’m still going to drink it.”

This is one of the biggest challenges in outreach: getting people to actually care about the information that they are receiving. I tried telling this student about what sugar does to his teeth, and he seemed apathetic despite these warnings. The constant challenge is for people to truly care about how their decisions affect their health and then to make the changes that will improve their health.

What is SBIRT, Anyway?

by Taylor Brinkley, Program Manager of the SBIRT Program

Earlier this year, CHCACT launched a new program called the Connecticut Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment Program – called SBIRT for short. This program is a partnership between the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the University of Connecticut Health Center, Community Health Center Association of Connecticut, and nine community health centers. In early 2012, CHCACT hired Health Educators – Bachelor’s level professionals with experience in community health, substance abuse, social work or other related fields – to work in partnering community health centers.

Just a few of the SBIRT Health Educators in our program.

SBIRT Health Educators see patients who are coming to health centers for regular care such as sick visits or physicals. They screen patients using a standardized set of questions related to the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. The purpose of asking these questions is to identify patients who may be at-risk for substance misuse or abuse. Once screened, patients are offered varying levels of intervention based on their level of risk. For example, if a male patient comes in to see his provider for a physical, he will likely be screened by a Health Educator. If the patient uses alcohol above recommended limits, he may score at moderate risk for developing health or other problems related to his use of alcohol. The Health Educator will share with him important feedback such as his risk level, health risks associated with his use of alcohol, and advice for cutting down on his alcohol use. This interaction is key to educating patients and helping them lower their risk levels, when possible. Patients who score at very high risk may be provided with a referral to the appropriate level of treatment.

The focus of this program is to implement “universal” screenings in health centers – or to screen as many patients as possible who are 18 and older. In order to make this happen, Health Educators need to be integrated into the health center’s processes, procedures and work flows. Health Educators work closely with nurses, medical assistants and providers, attend provider/staff meetings, and are often considered a part of the health center’s “care-team.” This is important because Health Educators are able to share the information they glean from the screening with the patient’s provider. For example, if after receiving education from the Health Educator a patient is interested in quitting smoking, the Health Educator is able to inform the patient’s provider so he/she can follow-up with the patient for tobacco cessation counseling or perhaps prescription Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), if needed. Hopefully, SBIRT will help further the linkage between primary care and behavioral health care services in community health centers.

Since February 2012, Health Educators have screened 2,760 people. Of this, approximately 82% have screened “negative” or at very low risk, 15% have received a Brief Intervention (feedback, advice), and 3% have been referred to treatment. The goal for this 5-year program is to complete 42,000 screenings so we have our work cut out for us! As SBIRT screenings become more integrated into the regular practices of the health centers, we hope to screen all adult health center patients at least once per year.

To learn more about the SBIRT program or for help finding services in your community, please contact Taylor Brinkley at tpaynebrinkley@chcact.org.