The Northern Michigan Community Health Innovation Region’s Community Connections program was certified by the Pathways Community HUB Institute following a review of program services, policies and procedures, and evaluation methods.
Community Connections is key to the Community Health Innovation Region’s goal to remove barriers to basic needs like healthy food, affordable housing, transportation options, and health insurance and medical referral, among many others.
“We help residents find, and use, resources in the community,” said Jenifer Murray, who directs the program, which is operated in partnership with four local health departments across 21 counties. “These ‘social determinants of health’ are as important to good health as routine medical care.”
There is no charge to participate in Community Connections and all are eligible regardless of income or insurance status.
The program uses evidence-based “Pathways” or a step-by-step process for each need families are experiencing. For example, to close the Behavioral Health Pathway, clients must make and keep at least three appointments with a mental health provider because research shows they are likely to continue treatment. Sometimes a Pathway cannot be closed because the needed resource is not available in the community.
“That is important information for community groups in the CHIR working to address social determinants of health at the sector or system level,” Murray said.
A University of Michigan evaluation of Community Connections earlier this year reported that families find staff persistent, dedicated, friendly, and accepting. Furthermore, the vast majority of clients felt their experience working with Community Connections had a positive impact on their future, such as their ability to secure community services themselves and to support their own health.
About 1,200 use Community Connections each year.
“It’s more important than ever,” said Jane Sundmacher, the CHIR’s executive director. “Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen marked increase in resident needs for healthy food, health insurance, and financial assistance. Many new clients have never used social services before.”
The mission of the Northern Michigan Community Health Innovation Region is cross-sector collaboration dedicated to improving population health and increase health equity through partnerships and systems change.
The hubs are the network of agencies, information and services available to those in need.
For more information about the Community Health Innovation Region’s, please visit www.northernmichiganchir.org.
To schedule an appointment with a navigator, call the Community Connections Hub for your county of residence.
There are several local Community Connections Hubs, including District Health Department Four, which services Alpena, Cheboygan, Montmorency and Presque Isle counties and can be contacted by calling 1-800-221-0294.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is also one of these hubs, servicing Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties, and can be contacted by calling 1-800-432-4121.