Meet Michigan Medicine: Community Health Services

January 13, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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In November, readers learned all about Michigan Medicine Lodging, a service that provides comfortable accommodations to patients and family members who travel long distances to receive care from the organization’s experts.

But that program is only one part of Community Health Services, a larger department aimed at helping those in need.

“If you think of Michigan Medicine as a human body, we think of our team as the hand that reaches out to the community,” said Alfreda Rooks, director of CHS.

Indeed, CHS allows the organization to impact thousands of lives in a myriad of ways — often without people ever having to travel to the academic medical center.

From helping community members fight food and housing insecurity to improving the training and care provided at Michigan Medicine, here’s how CHS does just that.

Nine services, nine ways to help

Community Health Services is comprised of more than 100 staff members in nine different areas. The largest, the Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools (RAHS), provides primary care, behavioral health and referrals for tangible need services to students at schools across Washtenaw and Genesee counties.

“RAHS truly fills a need,” Rooks said. “It meets students where they are and gives them the support and care that they may not otherwise receive.”

Other service lines include, in alphabetical order:

Adolescent Health Initiative: A program that provides national training and assistance, and provides youth-driven resources to providers and health professionals. “AHI’s goal is to improve the health care landscape for an often-overlooked segment of the population — adolescents,” Rooks said.

Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels: Helps reduce hunger and food insecurity for homebound older adults and others in the area as complete, nutritious meals are delivered directly to people’s homes.

Community Benefit: This team collects and analyzes information from each program at Michigan Medicine and measures how many people benefit, how many dollars are put into the program and how many hours are logged by staff members to carry out its services. The small team also carries out the IRS-mandated Community Health Needs Assessment to ensure the organization offers impactful services that address needs identified in partnership with the community.

Friends Gift Shops: Yes, these shops offer goods to patients, families, faculty and staff in hospitals and clinics, but their impact stretches far beyond their walls. Outside of operating costs for the gift shops, revenue supports programs and services for patients and families, in addition to programs external to the hospital and in the community.

Housing Bureau for Seniors: A program that stretches throughout Washtenaw County, HBS assists older adults with seeking and maintaining appropriate and affordable housing.

This program’s scope changed as a result of COVID-19. As Rooks said: “While we originally focused only on older adults, we’ve lowered the age limits to help as many adults as we can maintain housing security throughout the pandemic.”

Michigan Medicine Lodging: A team that finds hotel or other accommodations for family members and visitors of patients at Michigan Medicine.

Program for Multicultural Health: This program improves health and well-being by providing culturally-responsive health education and promotion within the community.

Volunteer Services: A group that helps place thousands of volunteers across the organization, who then help support faculty and staff carry out a variety of functions.

Connecting the dots

According to Rooks and the CHS team, ensuring the health of the community involves much more than just bringing them to Michigan Medicine. It involves going out to meet them where they are.

“If you want to make an impact, you need to be where people are,” Rooks said. “If there are transportation barriers or people are homebound or have difficulty preparing food at home, that doesn’t mean we can’t help them stay healthy.”

That’s the goal of programs like the Housing Bureau for Seniors, RAHS and Meals on Wheels.

It’s also the goal for the Program for Multicultural Health (PMCH), which creates health programming for faith-based organizations and other community partners.

“If we can provide skills and training for an organization on how to better care for their population’s health, the entire community will benefit,” Rooks said. So her team meets with them a number of times and provides all the support they need to get programs off the ground. Once set, PMCH can move on to other communities and impact more lives.

The beauty of PMCH, Rooks said, is that it serves as a two-way street: “While we assist organizations in developing and implementing health-promotion programming, we also listen and learn what their needs are and how we can turn this information into improving Michigan Medicine faculty, staff and learners’ knowledge and understanding to better meet those needs. We connect those vital dots.”

Responding during a pandemic

Just as it has across the organization, COVID-19 has changed the way CHS carries out its work. But it’s also served as a reminder of just how determined team members are to help.

Meals on Wheels, for instance, had to figure out how to deliver meals safely, with drivers wearing masks and leaving food outside people’s homes. And as previously mentioned, the Housing Bureau for Seniors tweaked who they were assisting.

On top of existing services, CHS — with amazing volunteer support from Michigan Medicine staff — also created pop-up COVID-19 testing clinics in Ypsilanti and other areas.

“The pandemic challenged us to figure out how we could still provide much-needed services while maintaining safety for staff, clients and the community,” Rooks said. “It shows just how thoughtful and dedicated our team members are to making a difference.”

That difference is made across the organization — and the region.

“Our teams are so wide-ranging that many are unaware that they all fall under CHS,” Rooks said. “But that’s what’s so great about this department — we play important roles and impact our organization in hundreds of ways each and every day.”

Want to help CHS? Donations can be made to individual programs via the CHS website. And volunteer opportunities are offered regularly for both clinical and non-clinical roles at community events. Stay tuned to Headlines, which will share these opportunities when they become available!

And be sure to check out the 2020 CHS Year-in-Review video below!