COVID-19 has presented us with many challenges. It has also presented the state Department of Health and its partners with opportunities to think about how to build systems now that will serve us in the future, post-pandemic. We have numerous examples of how we are taking the long view on how we do our systems work. One example is the work we've done on Care Connect Washington.
Care Connect is a program our agency initiated as part of our pandemic response. It supports individuals and families needing help to stay home during isolation/quarantine when diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19.
Care Connect helps with everything from access to food and medication to rent assistance. I love hearing that people who need food receive boxes of it through Care Connect or reading that a pulse oximeter we provided saved somebody's life.
In addition to these stories of serving immediate individual needs, there are things I love about Care Connect that have to do with larger systems and how we think about changing them to create better health for all.
Here are my top three:
- People needed to connect with health and social services before the pandemic, and they will still need to connect after the pandemic. We are building Care Connect to be a sustainable, scalable system that will be able to get state resources to communities quickly — every day and in an emergency. In the aftermath of COVID, Care Connect will be able to help people get back on their feet economically and emotionally, whether that means getting connected to employment opportunities, behavioral health services, or preventive care.
- Care Connect is a system that relies on strong partnership between state and local entities, with clear roles identified that make best use of resources. The state brings the assets of a resource directory, training, and technology; regional hubs serve as coordination points for access to health and wellness services; and local organizations implement the program and act as homes for the community-based workforce.
- And my favorite thing about Care Connect: it centers and invests in the community-based workforce. These individuals reflect the communities where clients live, and they are able to build the trusted relationships necessary to deliver support, during regular times and during emergencies. This workforce is essential for us to achieve our equity goals.
The work our agency and partners have done to stand up Care Connect has allowed us to solve immediate, pandemic-related problems, but it will serve communities well as we head into the recovery and beyond.
And that is taking the long view.
Find out more about Care Connect Washington on this fact sheet.
Maria Courogen is the Systems Transformation Director at the Washington State Department of Health. The Systems Transformation team members serve as connectors, working to elevate and align agency efforts with governmental public health, and other health and wellness system partners. The team helps facilitate collaborative engagement strategies, and leverage information and opportunities to advance transformation efforts systemwide. The Healthier Washington Collaboration Portal is one of the resources managed through the Systems Transformation Office.