New $750K grant program will improve health care access in New York

Community health workers (CHWs), including patient navigators and care coordinators, play a vital role in the success of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and in advancing health equity.

As part of dedicated FQHC teams providing compassionate care to community members, patient navigators and care coordinators help create a welcoming environment and provide a consistent point of contact for all services needed. Building trusted relationships with patients leads to fewer missed appointments and improved health outcomes, as well as contributing to optimal resource use and less revenue loss for FQHCs. Access to patient navigators and care coordinators is a significant factor in addressing the health care needs of underserved populations.

Increasing patient access to CHWs

To support and invest in the important work of CHWs, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of New York has announced a $750,000 grant program in collaboration with the Community Health Care Association of New York State (CHCANYS). Grants will be awarded to FQHCs throughout New York to increase access to care coordinators and patient navigators.

“We are dedicated to improving access to care for all New Yorkers, and this is just one part of achieving that goal,” said Dan Benardette, chief executive officer, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of New York. “Community health workers play a critical role in supporting our members and we are excited about partnering with CHCANYS to expand their footprint at health centers throughout New York.”

How grants will assist New York FQHCs

The application-based program will invite any FQHC in New York state to apply for the grant funding, with awards ranging from $25,000 to $33,000. Funding recipients will establish a learning collaborative among community health centers utilizing CHWs to share best practices for staffing, training, engagement and scope of work.

These collaborations will help improve patient care and offer increased support to CHWs in one of the largest FQHC networks in the nation. New York ranks third in the United States1 with over 70 FQHCs operating 800 sites throughout New York, according to the Community Health Care Association of New York State (CHCANYS). Together they serve over 2.3 million patients.2

Helping the helpers

CHWs at FQHCs guide patients through the health care system, helping them overcome barriers to their health care needs. A clinic may have one or several patient navigators, led by a care coordinator, and the navigators may work with dozens of patients a day.

Patient navigators and care coordinators fulfill wide-ranging roles. They encourage those who need care to come to a clinic, refer them to additional specialty services and ensure continuing and consistent care. Additional responsibilities can include field-based outreach, transportation assistance and crisis intervention, as well as translating, scheduling and record-keeping. Their work sites can vary from mobile clinic vans to large urban hospitals.

The compassion and empathy shown by health care, emergency and community service professionals can prove psychically, mentally and economically costly, according to a study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.3 Compassion fatigue, as it is known, can add to the pressures and challenges of providing health care.

Learning collaborations funded by the grants will assist CHWs by focusing on advances in staffing planning, training programs and improved support for their role, alleviating some of those pressures.

Partnering for progress and health equity

“Community health centers provide high-quality, whole-person care to anyone who walks through their doors — with community health care workers there to guide them through every step of the process and ensure all of their needs are met,” said Rose Duhan, CHCANYS president and chief executive officer. “We are so grateful to UnitedHealthcare for providing funding that supports and enhances the work we all do to ensure all patients have access to the care they need and deserve.”

UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and making the health system work better for everyone by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers.

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