Grant to Friends of Mercy Foundation helps with health care education and utilization

Grant to Friends of Mercy Foundation helps with health care education and utilization.(AUGUST 2017) – Friends of Mercy Foundation recently received a generous grant to support a community-wide endeavor aimed at helping individuals obtain and utilize vital health care services.

Community Health Initiative (CHI) of Kern County provides direct services to members of the community to overcome barriers to access of health care through Medi-Cal and other state programs.

Services include assisting with enrollment, providing education, training agency partners, accessing preventative care and other aid that helps people become and remain healthy.

The $250,000 grant from the California Endowment for the Coalition to Maximize Medi-Cal coverage in Kern County will help CHI expand their program to advocate around the importance of Medi-Cal to their community and to the whole of California.

“We saw a need to educate more people and different sectors of the community about what’s at stake if these programs go away,” said Edgar Aguilar, program manager, referencing recent legislative moves around the Affordable Care Act. “People’s live depend on this coverage.”

Kern County is an area built on agriculture and oil, with a large population of low-income families and individuals. Many struggle with chronic diseases including diabetes, asthma and valley fever. The people the program helps are often gaining insurance for the very first time, so they have little-to-no knowledge of how to navigate the often complex system.

“There are a lot of social and economic factors working against our community and access to health care is essential,” Aguilar said. “Getting them covered is the first step, getting them to the doctor to stay healthy is the goal.”

The grant, which started in April, will help provide CHI with resources to hire additional help, further collaborate with local agencies, and create educational and outreach materials over the course of two years.

“This is new ground for us. The staff and the coalition are experts at getting people enrolled, and overcoming those barriers but this education piece is advocacy. It’s new to us,” Aguilar said. “But we’re fired up about demonstrating the importance of access to health care in our community.”