COORDINATED COMMUNITY CARE
By harnessing the power of multiple resources to arm River Region residents with the knowledge and tools to take charge of their health, The Wellness Coalition is improving cost issues for healthcare providers and outcomes for patients.
Moving to Better Health
The Wellness Coalition in Montgomery estimates that as many as 100,000 people in the River Region are medically uninsured. The implications are far-reaching and community-wide. “Having no health insurance often means that people will postpone or forgo check-ups and preventative care,” said Ghandi Daniels, Executive Director for The Wellness Coalition. “This leads to higher rates of chronic disease and higher costs within our local health system.”
The problem came to a head in 1999, when local emergency rooms were overloaded with patients, putting a strain on important medical resources. At the time, a group of healthcare providers knew they had to work together to find a solution. Their goal was to reduce the economic impact of serving the uninsured and to increase patients’ quality of life.
Leaders with the Alabama Department of Public Health, Baptist Health, Community Care Network, Health Services Inc., Jackson Hospital, the Joint Public Charity Hospital Board, Medical Outreach Ministries, the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority and the Montgomery County Health Department joined forces to form what is now known as The Wellness Coalition (TWC). The organization was officially incorporated in 2002, and today, TWC brings together more than 15 healthcare providers to service Autauga, Elmore, Lowndes, Macon and Montgomery counties.
Serving The Most Vulnerable
TWC finds success by coordinating a community-wide system of healthcare and social service providers, including local hospitals, health centers, free clinics, public health agencies, governments and nonprofits.
Wellness Navigators, employed by TWC, act as case managers, and they’re placed in hospital emergency rooms to connect clients to a primary care doctor, health education, nutrition and other community resources. In addition, Coalition staff members conduct free disease prevention and health education classes that empower attendees to manage their own health.
Daniels, who started with the organization 16 years ago as a case manager, says the coordinated approach helps address all factors in a person’s life that may be contributing to chronic disease. “Many people in the River Region, particularly those in minority groups, are at risk due to insufficient knowledge, resources or support to make healthy lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, regular physical activity and chronic disease prevention or management,” said Daniels. “We work to educate and support people in every area of life that can impact health and wellness to lessen the count of those burdened by these disparities.”
The Business Of Coordinated Care
The Wellness Coalition is built on a foundation of strong partnerships with community leaders, agencies and partners. Michael Briddell, the Director of Public Information and External Affairs for the City of Montgomery, is a longtime board member for TWC and is currently serving as the Immediate Past Chairperson. The objective of the organization, he says, creates a powerful ripple effect felt area-wide. “By helping people find a ‘medical home,’ we are freeing hospital emergency room capacity and reducing indigent care costs that impact us all,” said Briddell. “The Wellness Coalition is moving people with chronic conditions to better health, and it’s making a difference in the lives of thousands of us and our neighbors.”
Plus, according to Daniels, unhealthy employees negatively impact our workforce. Pointing to studies that connect chronic conditions with low employee performance, Daniels says the organization can also partner with businesses to provide direct services to bring about positive, healthy changes from within. “Bringing service providers to the table to work together is the hallmark of the Coalition’s founding strategy,” said Daniels.
Health Services, Inc., one of TWC’s founding partners, is still heavily involved today. Its CEO Gilbert Darrington is chairperson for the board, and the support and collaboration between TWC and his company extends beyond services. “Many of the patients we provide care for have extremely complex issues. Our partnership is important to us because The Wellness Coalition is deeply involved in assisting patients in finding access to care and information,” Darrington said. “What’s more,” he said, “Their staff is dedicated to finding long-term solutions.”
As the Wellness Coalition embarks on the start of its third decade as an organization, it continues to strengthen relationships between the community and those it serves. “We are proud to solve problems and improve the quality of life for everyone in the River Region,” Daniels said.
Learn More: TWC is currently enrolling patients in free wellness classes. You can visit thewellnesscoalition.org or call (334) 293-6502 for more information.
New Parking Meters Help Homeless
Earlier this year, Mayor Steven L. Reed announced the launch of a new City initiative to end homelessness and support those currently facing such circumstances. “The Feed the Meter for the Homeless initiative connects compassion with convenience by allowing Montgomery residents and visitors to support our neighbors affected by homelessness and its devastating ramifications,” Reed said.
In partnership with the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless (MACH), the City of Montgomery developed the Feed the Meter for the Homeless project. Special green parking meters downtown offer residents a way to donate directly to support MACH and central Alabama agencies working with those experiencing homelessness in Montgomery. Donations are accepted in the forms of coins or cash at each specialized meter and by card through the ParkMobile app or online payment at feedthemetermgm.org. “Each donation is a hand-up to help those in need and an investment in building a better future for Montgomery and the River Region,” Reed said.
MAX Honors The Montgomery Zoo
Earlier this year, MAX held its 17th Annual MAX Community Reception, an annual event that celebrates community successes and recognizes organizations and individuals who have made a significant difference in the quality of life in Central and East Alabama.
MAX honored The Montgomery Zoo for its efforts to create a better River Region. Committed to teaching others about animals and conservation efforts, the Zoo offers various educational programs that can be adapted to fit a variety of different age groups, as well as volunteer and internship opportunities. With more than 500 animals on-site, the Zoo offers a fun and educational experience for all.