Health caller program addresses behavioral health needs in Texas

Individuals with diabetes are two to three times more likely to have depression than people without diabetes and 20% more likely to experience anxiety.1 Within Texas alone, 2.8M individuals have been diagnosed with diabetes.2 However, approximately 97% of counties in Texas are designated behavioral health provider shortage areas as of 2024.3 Committed to improving health outcomes in Texas, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas invested $300K in Dell Medical School’s health caller program. This program provides individuals who have depression and diabetes with support from trained volunteers through consistent phone calls.

In 2020, Dell Medical School’s health care initiative, Factor Health, collaborated with Meals on Wheels Central Texas to facilitate the Sunshine Calls program.4 Through this program, homebound Meals on Wheels clients received phone calls from volunteers over a month-long period. Volunteers were trained in empathetic communication to address isolation of aging individuals. A randomized control trial of this program demonstrated a positive impact on depression, anxiety and loneliness in program participants compared with individuals not participating in the program.

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas’s investment helps facilitate the latest iteration of this program, now a collaboration between Factor Health and CommUnityCare Health Centers, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Austin. The grant was launched on July 1, 2023, and is ongoing through June 30, 2025. While the Sunshine Calls program focused on the mental health challenges of homebound and aging individuals, Factor Health determined individuals who have experienced challenges with both depression and diabetes would have the greatest benefit from the health caller program.

The grant supports:

  • A pilot implementation of the program for 100 patients
  • Design and tests of engagement to maximize patient recruitment
  • Work with CommUnityCare Health Centers to identify populations that would benefit the most
  • Identification of an existing tool to support health callers
  • Assessment of program impact regarding patient outcomes, provider burden and satisfaction of CommUnityCare Health Centers

Future plans for this program include a conclusive evaluation of effectiveness which will guide program scaling efforts. The program will also be adding a second clinical organization, Visiting Nurses Association in Dallas, to increase patient engagement.

One program participant commented, “I am just so happy about this program. There are people like me that just need to talk to somebody to feel regular again. You would be surprised how helpful a phone call is. Just talking has made me so happy and so motivated. I want to go make dinner and dust my apartment. Wow! I don’t even know who you are, you are a complete stranger, and I am talking to you like we are related.”

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas is committed to improving the health outcomes and quality of life for Texans with depression and diabetes.

Learn more about how we serve our members in Texas by visiting our website

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