Stronger coordination between health care providers, social workers and residents in the greater Worcester community is now a reality thanks to a new partnership between Reliant Medical Group and UMass Memorial Health Care. Community HELP (Health and Everyday Living Programs) enables individuals and families to find and apply for government and charitable social service programs using a comprehensive online directory. The two organizations established Community HELP to bridge the gap between the community and clinical systems with true collaboration across the continuum of care.
“Often a doctor or a social worker may know that what a person really needs is a place to live, or better nutrition, or job training – but finding the right services to help them is not always easy,” said Christine Cernak, senior director, Population Health, UMass Memorial Health Care. “Instead of making a dozen phone calls, now people in these communities can seek help from Community HELP.”
Reliant and UMass Memorial wanted to create a one-stop repository of local programs and resources available in Worcester County. Community HELP uses a highly specific search tool to easily find these resources. The tool also lists up-to-date hours, contact information and other resources on an easy-to-navigate website. Health care providers can also “prescribe” services to a client or patient by using Community HELP to send a direct referral on behalf of a patient or client. The site will continually be updated.
“This project is a wonderful testament to the value of the local healthcare community working together to make the system work better for everyone,” says Tarek Elsawy, MD, president and CEO of Reliant Medical Group. “This resource is a major step forward in giving some of our most vulnerable patients seamless access to both the health and social services they need.”
“UMass Memorial health Care and Reliant Medical Group, through our extensive reach in Central Massachusetts whether in hospitals, clinics or work being done by our people providing direct service in the communities, have seen firsthand the tremendous need that exists in Central Massachusetts,” said Eric Dickson, MD, president and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care. “With this tool our people will have all of the information needed to help these patients find the service or program to meet their needs. We are proud to partner with Reliant Medical Group to bring this important resource to the people of Central Massachusetts.”
Worcester County residents can use Community HELP by logging onto http://www.communityhelp.net and entering a Worcester County zip code to find more than 1,200 programs. A user can click “food” and see programs ranging from nutritional education,
free meals and food pantries to food delivery. Those looking for other resources can conduct specific searches for transportation, legal help, education and work. Healthcare providers will have a separate website.
The two organizations are the first in Massachusetts to adopt this platform which is based on the nationally recognized program Aunt Bertha founded by Ernie Gray. Overwhelmed by the task of finding care for his mother who was dealing with a rare disease – he quickly realized how frustrating it could be. Gray created software to modernize the health and social services eligibility system. Along his journey he saw a need for an easily navigable social services platform and a simple application process. Aunt Bertha officially went live in June 2011 in Austin, Texas and statewide less than a year later. It is currently spreading across the nation.