Community Health Access Program (CHAP)
A Renewed Focus to Reach the Most Vulnerable in Our Community
Established in 2014, the Community Health Access Program (CHAP) is an initiative by Christian Hospital to remove health barriers that exist in vulnerable communities. These barriers can range from health literacy and a lack of caregiver support to less directly related barriers, such as limited access to transportation, inadequate housing and financial resource strain, among many others.
By removing these barriers and connecting people with the right resources — medical and otherwise — CHAP is improving the health of the community beyond the walls of the hospital. This also results in a reduction of unnecessary emergency room visits and hospital readmissions.
THE NEW CARE DELIVERY MODEL
Previously, CHAP operated as a joint effort between Christian Hospital’s emergency medical responders (EMS) and the emergency department (ED). However, at the beginning of 2021, CHAP underwent a restructuring of its care delivery model to better align community needs with the appropriate resources.
This new model unites a team of community health workers, a social worker and a nurse practitioner.
CHAP Team's dedicated nurse practitioner Connie Douglas, ANP-BC, and Brittany Betts, community health worker.
The program works by identifying vulnerable patients who are at risk for readmission. A member of the CHAP team then meets the patient at the bedside of the hospital, establishing a connection with the patient and providing an overview of the wraparound services available to them. Patients who are at high risk may be connected to CHAP’S dedicated nurse practitioner, Connie Douglas, ANP-BC, and a community health worker. If the patient consents, the CHAP team follows the patient after discharge from the hospital for at least 30 days.
During that time, Connie provides oversight and management of the patient’s medical needs, fielding concerns that arise and often providing valuable education they might not otherwise receive. The community health worker assigned to the patient works with them to address any barriers that could impact their outcome.
“One example could be a patient struggling with a condition such as diabetes. They might be faced with the decision, ‘Do I pay rent, or do I cover the cost of my insulin?’ Unfortunately, health care may be a lower priority as patients have to prioritize their most basic needs, such as food, shelter and safety. When people have to make tough decisions like that, we’re trying to help them remove those barriers,” says Dana Ballinger, LCSW, MPH, director of care coordination and population health at Christian Hospital. “CHAP gives us the ability to connect patients to the resources they need, whether that be finding them a primary care provider, identifying transportation resources, assisting them in enrolling in the Affordable Care Act or helping them address rental or utility issues through partnerships with community resources. We are helping to address these barriers so that patients can receive the health care they need.”
Shifting to a model with community health workers only furthers CHAP’s mission. As trusted members of the community who live, work and play here, they have greater knowledge of the array of resources available as well as a deeper understanding of the community culture and environment that exists. This allows the community health workers to truly live out their role as partners with the community, building bridges for the patients we serve and filling the gaps they face.
This, complemented by the knowledge and dedication of a nurse practitioner and social worker, has already led to great success.
“The restructuring was a very positive and smart move by Christian Hospital. In the community that we serve, it’s not always a medical reason as to why they come back to the hospital. For many, it’s the lack of those social determinants of health that we expect,” says Connie. “We take care of the whole patient, and this team that we have is just so well thought out to get them the right resources they need at the right time.”
To learn more about the Community Health Access Program (CHAP), please call 314.747.WELL (9355).
You can also support CHAP by giving to the Christian Hospital Foundation online or by calling 314.653.5162.