When a patient comes to Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital, vitals are checked, medical conditions are diagnosed, and a plan of care is created and implemented. Health care providers there are going beyond standard medical care when developing patient’s care plans. They’re also asking patients questions such as: Do you have enough to eat? Can you pay for heat and other utilities? How is your mental health? Is substance abuse an issue for you? Are you struggling in any way? If someone needs help, they meet Julie Hardy, the hospital’s patient navigator. Hardy was hired with funding support from the Superior Health Foundation and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation in support of the hospital’s overall Community Connect program – developed to link patients to community resources and programs, with a strong focus on mental health and substance use disorder treatment.
Hardy helps patients find the resources they need in the community and stays in touch to make sure they’re able to access them. It’s a job that requires a lot of knowledge about a lot of different areas. She’s helped people understand their finances after losing a spouse and worked with them to understand their health insurance benefits. She also works with providers on how to recognize trauma in children and adults and how to effectively and compassionately treat patients with substance use disorder. “I want people to understand that these are people in our community, and they deserve the best care,” Hardy said. The Community Connect program launched in May. Hardy works in the community where she graduated high school and where her family lives. Her passion for the job is evident and feedback so far has been positive. “That’s my biggest thing – it is making a difference,” she said. “It’s a program that has changed our community.” The initiative reflects a broader trend of doctor’s offices and hospitals recognizing that a big portion of what influences good health happens outside their walls. If someone is worried about housing or needs mental health treatment, they’re less likely to eat well, exercise or even take needed medications.
Other funders have helped Schoolcraft Memorial get other aspects of the Community Connect program up and running. Sara Giles, marketing director, said a new website is in the development phase and will launch by 2020. The Community Connect Website will allow the public to view helpful resources in their county with an easy to navigate website. The back end of the site contains an online professional forum where users can discuss resources for their clients, share events and write blogs about new services in their agency. This new networking and resource site, combined with Hardy, helps address a common complaint hospital officials and others in the community were hearing. “It’s difficult to keep track of agency services and the resources they offer in our community and surrounding areas. Having Julie Hardy on board gives our patients and the community access to a resource specialist free of charge,” Giles said. By partnering with schools and other local agencies, Community Connect aims to have a “no wrong door” impact, meaning wherever residents turn for help, they’ll find assistance accessing it, knowing Hardy and the hospital want to help. “It’s really tackling … difficult problems and if nothing else, it’s showing our patients that we do care,” Hardy said. Hardy will represent the Community Connect program at an upcoming resource fair on Friday, Oct. 4 at First Baptist Church in Manistique. Local residents are invited to learn about available resources in the community. If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
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Photos courtesy Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital