BELOIT - HealthNet of Rock County has received a grant from the Stateline Community Foundation to support its case manager position that began last year.
HealthNet Executive Director Ian Hedges said the case manager position was created April 2016 after HealthNet received a national grant for full salary and benefits for the position. Hedges said that the clinic found that people from Beloit were having difficulties because they weren't readily able to travel to Janesville. With 40 percent of patients coming from Beloit, case manager Alicia Merino provides transportation to referral appointments, translation services at the appointments and follow-up and guidance on how to best work on treatment for chronic conditions for all of the patients.
Hedges said that by the time patients are coming to HealthNet of Rock County, they need assistance overcoming the barriers that have kept them out of the traditional healthcare system.
"A grant from the Stateline Community Foundation ensures that our patients will have better outcomes and, more importantly, better lives," Hedges said.
Hedges said free and charitable clinics are mostly staffed by volunteers. Since volunteers are not able to help 40 hours a week, he said HealthNet wanted someone there to provide the best outcomes for patients. After HealthNet had the case manager position for a year, 89 percent of individuals were able to adhere to treatments prescribed to doctors.
"Care is hard to coordinate within any health system, and having someone to make those connections and solve those problems is really important," Hedges said.
HealthNet is a nonprofit free medical and dental clinic offering care to the uninsured and underinsured Rock County residents living at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Last summer, the clinic began offering limited mental health services, and Merino helps physicians by following up with patients, making sure they're taking the right dosage and seeing if their dosages need to be updated. In an analysis of outcomes, HealthNet determined the case manager performing follow-up and coordinating treatment helped improve depression symptoms in 69 percent of its patients. HealthNet also has a fully functioning volunteer satellite clinic offered at Beloit Memorial Hospital once a month.
Hedges said the case manager also helps coach members through the traditional healthcare system once Merino feels they're ready.
"We don't want people to rely on our clinic," Hedges said. "We want people to live empowered lives."
Merino is currently HealthNet's only case manager. Though Hedges said HealthNet of Rock County would like to have more in the future, right now the $8,000 given from Stateline Community Foundation's Community Impact Grant Program is covering a portion of Merino's salary, and HealthNet has planned additional special events and is using other funding sources to make sure the clinic may keep Merino on for another year.
"We are the only free clinic serving as a safety net for many uninsured Beloit residents," Hedges said. "While the Affordable Care Act increased health care coverage in some areas of the state, almost 10 percent of Rock County residents still remain without health insurance."