Impact Report 2020-2021
For the state of Michigan, March 23, 2020, will hold special significance as it marked the initiation of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order related to COVID-19. As a community, we were challenged to adjust our traditional approach, to work differently, and to rise together to address the needs of our communities.
While adaptation and collaboration have always been fundamental elements of our work, the stay-at-home order further ignited our desire to evaluate our methods of service provision to ensure we continued to meet the needs of our neighbors and partners. We supported the implementation of virtual care options for patients, volunteered the skills and expertise of our staff to partner sites inundated with assistance requests, and prioritized the well-being of our staff as they met the increasing needs of our community.
We continue to center our navigation and connection to resources to address social determinants of health in pursuit of our vision to build a community where all have a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.
Thank you for partnering with us to support our community.
Maureen Kirkwood, President and CEO
Ken Fawcett, MD, 2021-22 Board Chair
Health Net of West Michigan assists our community members to connect to the resources they need to live a healthier life through screening, outreach, and navigation.
· Screening – We collaborate with healthcare providers throughout Kent County to screen their patients for health-related social needs, early childhood needs, and to identify other barriers to care.
· Outreach – Our team participates in a wide variety of community groups to gain knowledge about trends within our community and to share insights from our partnerships across health systems, community organizations, and with insurance providers.
· Navigation – Our unique care model is grounded in affirming the strengths of each client, walking alongside them throughout the process and supporting each person to choose the path toward services that fit their unique needs.
Mission – Navigating care. Connecting resources.
Vision – Creating a community where everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.
Health Net of West Michigan was formed by re-purposing Kent Health Plan’s 501(c)(3) status to form a new organization.
Michigan Association of United Ways (MAUW) received MI-CHAP award from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to replicate the pediatric CHAP model in eight additional sites. Health Net provided technical assistance leadership to the MI-CHAP sites.
The Kent County Oral Health Coalition was awarded the Oral Health 2020 grant from the DentaQuest Foundation. (Now CareQuest Institute for Oral Health.)
The Equity Team, a collective of staff from all levels of the organization, began to implement regular equity events for staff to expand their knowledge around topics related to equity, inclusion and diversity.
Health Net hosted its first all day equity training session on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Each year the office closes to clients and partners, and our staff partake in a “Day On” of education around an equity related topic.
Health Net was the only organization in Michigan to be awarded the $4.51 million Accountable Health Communities (AHC) cooperative agreement through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. This funding expanded Health Net’s capacity as Kent County’s bridge organization over the next five years.
Health Net started to onboard the first community advisors to provide insight to AHC Advisory meetings.
Health Net was approved as one of the recipients of the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage. The $930,000 of funding allowed for the expansion of services for expectant families with children up to age six.
Health Net announced Equity Officer Position to support our equity efforts made possible by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
FitKids360 received approval as its own 501(c) 3 organization.
Health Net launched its new WE CARE values and equity pledge to become an antiracist organization.
Health Net was awarded the Hometown Hero award by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Health Net officially opened eligibility to services to anyone living in Kent County regardless of health coverage.
Kent County is home to 657,974 individuals as of 2020 and continues to grow. Health Net of West Michigan has served 9,164 individuals and families in the span of 2020-2021.
In 2020 and 2021, approximately 21% of the clients we had successful contact with identified as Hispanic or Latinx, and slightly over half of the clients served identified as a race other than white, with the largest proportion identifying as Black or African American.
With the assistance of our 12 multilingual staff members and in collaboration with interpreters, we served individuals with approximately 16 different primary languages in 2020 and approximately 13 in 2021. Our team spent 482 hours working with interpreters to reach out to clients and engaging in calls with clients and agencies to ensure language barriers did not prevent our clients from equitable access to resources.
We increased the percentage of clients with a completed outbound referral from 21.8% in 2020 to 34.9% in 2021. A completed outbound referral means that a client and/or provider, confirms that the service provider is available to address the client’s need.
The success of the referrals is even higher for our direct referrals related to early childhood services in 2021, with 78.7% of clients with a completed outbound referral. We can attribute this success to intentional efforts to provide additional training to our team on data entry and increasing our capacity for completing referrals by adding a Program Assistant to focus on our early childhood efforts as we collaborate with our partners.
Reintroducing our values:
As any organization grows and refines its role within a community, what is most central to the organization becomes clearer. In this process, we launched our values using the acronym of WE CARE. Our values are grounded in the pursuit of community well-being and equitable systems that allow all to access critical resources within our neighborhoods.
Well-being and Equity
Well-being and equity are foundational elements of our organization in which we work to build a culture that advocates for the well-being of our staff, clients, partners, and neighbors.
- We are proud to have permanently expanded our eligibility in 2020 to serve anyone living in Kent County, regardless of health coverage.
- This pivot has allowed us to increase access to navigation and resources related to health-related social needs. At a most basic level, everyone deserves to have needs met and support working through barriers that prevent them from reaching their goal
Quotes from Our Team
The wellbeing of our staff is paramount to our ability to successfully serve our neighbors with the high-quality navigation services and individualized experience they have come to expect from our team. Burnout in social services and nonprofit fields is a known and prevalent issue given the intensive nature of the work. Especially at the height of the pandemic, burnout, stress, and the intense challenges facing our clients took a toll on our entire team.
- We changed our work week to 36 hours to provide a focus on a healthy work and life balance.
- To protect the wellbeing of our staff, each person is provided with wellness time off. This is a weekly benefit for staff to step away from their desks for an hour to focus on self-care.
We elevate the voices of those we serve to influence systemic change by convening stakeholders from a variety of specialties, lived experiences, and backgrounds to develop client-centered approaches to accessing resources. We advocate, build allies, and strive for systemic alignment from a local, state, and national perspective.
- The Kent County Oral Health Coalition, housed within our organization, is part of the Oral Health Progress and Equity Network (OPEN) which aims to catalyze a network to take on America’s oral health challenges so that everyone has an equitable chance to thrive. Equipped with knowledge of the national landscape of oral health, the Kent County Oral Health Coalition participates in supporting the Michigan Oral Health Coalition in their statewide endeavors to improve access to oral health related services for those living in Michigan.
- Since 2017, we have participated in the Accountable Health Communities Model alongside a variety of community partners to screen and support navigation for health-related social needs. As part of this national effort funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, we have had opportunities to share our key learnings with practitioners across the United States.
- In collaboration with Blue Cross Blue Shield and University of Michigan Medicine, our organization was selected as one of four collaborative quality initiatives under the Michigan Social Health Interventions to Eliminate Disparities (MShield) project.
- Each collaborative quality initiative works within their community to address health inequities due to unmet social needs. The project was a perfect fit for our organization with the existing navigation for social needs our organization has become known for providing within our community.
- Since late 2019, our organization has been one of the recipients of Ready By Five Early Childhood millage funding. The funding has allowed our team to engage intentionally with expectant parents and caregivers of children under six to ensure they have the resources needed for healthy growth and development.
- The early childhood work also has included engagement with families with children in foster care to help connect caregivers with the resources they need to reunite families and to navigate challenges they are facing.
- We are proud members of the LGBTQ Healthcare Consortium alongside healthcare providers, local businesses, and nonprofit organizations advocating for equitable access to healthcare services.
- Health Net has maintained a long term relationship with Priority Heath to support their Medicaid members in connecting to preventive care and resources to improve their health outcomes.
- We are proud to have longstanding relationships with the major health systems including, Spectrum Health, Trinity Health, University of Michigan Health West, and Cherry Health to support their patients in connecting to resources.
We work with clients and partners to implement innovative solutions and streamline system processes to address the needs of our community.
- Each person we assist via self-referral participates in a universal screening to ensure we can holistically address each person’s unique situation. The screening helps to engage our clients in our services and gain a better understanding of the barriers preventing them from reaching their goals.
- After testing the universal screening process in 2020, we further embedded the universal screening into our internal processes to streamline the steps clients take after reaching out to our organization.
- We increased the number of universal screenings completed annually from 1,614 in 2020 to 2,487 in 2021.
We discovered early in the pandemic that while resources like additional food access sites and relaxed requirements for food pantries increased access to food, many didn’t have reliable transportation to those sites.
- In response, we implemented a new transportation policy to provide free transportation to any food access location within Kent County with financial support from Priority Health. Our team offered resource drop-offs of food, diapers, and formula for clients who lived with individuals with vulnerable immune systems prior to the widespread availability of vaccines.
Reliable transportation is key to a client’s ability to access care and resources, and to achieve their personal goals. Each successful transportation trip represents one of our neighbor’s abilities to attend an appointment for themselves or their child or go to a food access location to make a meal for their family.
- Our team helped to coordinate 363 transportation rides January 1- December 31, 2020. The demand for transportation increased significantly and we offered 1,236 rides in 2021.
- We attribute the increase in rides we were able to offer to word of mouth from our clients and the continued need for assistance to access food, same day or next day doctor visits.
We work to dismantle the system of institutional racism and bias that prevents our clients and neighbors from accessing the tools and resources they need. We honor differing lived experiences and recognize the historical trauma inflicted upon communities of color, those who identify as LGBTQ, and our neighbors with disabilities.
- Our team has been actively pursuing becoming a trauma-informed organization to guide our interactions with each other, clients, and partners to honor life experiences that impact the ways we interact with the world around us.
- We have developed our care model through years of experience working alongside clients with a core emphasis on client strengths, empowerment, and equity. The intentionality behind our staff training and approach to supporting our clients is centered on the goals and desires of each client.
- In our efforts to create a more affirming office space for our staff and community, we have changed all bathroom signage to be gender neutral and share our pronouns in our email signatures along with an educational link on the importance of pronouns.
We equip people with the information they need to navigate the complex healthcare and social services systems by highlighting the natural skills each client has to advocate for themselves and others. We recognize in order to dismantle inequitable systems; we must first understand the root causes of inequity and the ways in which historical policies still negatively impact our current systems.
Quarterly, we close our office to allow staff to dedicate a day toward expanding their knowledge and expertise by examining different equity topics. In addition, our equity team offers monthly activities for staff to engage in to expand their knowledge in a variety of areas.
Hours of Health Net sponsored equity education opportunities
- 2020 –23 hours
- 2021 –27 hours
We also hosted two affinity groups for our Latina and Black staff members in our organization. Each group met for 14 hours to meet with a trained facilitator.
Investment in future professionals
From 2020-2021, we had the opportunity to welcome 20 student interns into our organization to learn, grow, and build mentorship relationships related to their areas of passion. We have supported students in both undergraduate and masters’ programs. Of these students, three have joined our client services team as social workers.
Navigation in Action- Help Me Grow Kent Collaboration
Health Net of West Michigan works alongside a wide variety of organizations in our community including our fellow Ready by Five Childhood millage partners. One of the case managers, Alice, working for Help Me Grow Kent, had been assisting a family and was looking for suggestions for resource options for one of her clients. Alice reached out to Jenn, Health Net’s Early Childhood Manager for assistance.
Alice shared that the family had severe mold throughout their apartment. Their building had been sprayed for mold three times, but the family still had mold growing on the couch, carpet, bathroom, and up the walls throughout their living space. Alice was searching for additional ideas as the mold situation was severely impacting their son’s health. He had been throwing up when he eats because breathing and swallowing had become challenging due to his severe asthma. Mom and her partner were also encountering breathing issues due to the mold.
Unhappy with their current apartment, Mom applied for a new apartment but was placed on a one year wait list. Alice had encouraged Mom to call Healthy Homes Coalition. When Mom called, the team offered to come spray the mold, but Mom declined since the landlord had already sprayed.
Jenn asked an Early Childhood Supervisor, Katie, to reach out to Alice for more details on the case so we could better collaborate to assist the family. Katie responded via email with suggestions and questions:
- Could contacting the city for support help the family?
- Does Mom have Section 8?
- Is the one-year waitlist for a subsidized apartment?
- Would it be possible to set up a zoom call with Hilary, our Housing Team Lead, and Amelia, our Community Health Worker who has in depth asthma knowledge?
Alice eagerly agreed, and the following day the team met via zoom to brainstorm solutions to help the family. During their call, the group explored the following options:
- Legal Aid of West Michigan
- Healthy Homes Coalition for other solutions for the mold
- Fair Housing Center of West Michigan
- Connecting with the family’s primary care physician to document health needs and concerns
- Connect with landlord/property management company to discuss the ongoing health concerns
- Pest Control to address concerns about bed bugs in their apartment