When someone receives a positive COVID-19 test result and has to isolate themselves at home, uncertainty can quickly take over. Many people are left asking themselves questions about survival without obvious places to turn for support: How will I feed my family and pets? Will I be able to pay rent this month? How do I keep my loved ones safe? These stressors can be more pronounced for communities in King County already facing disparities and barriers that affect their recovery and well-being. However, when someone who shares your lived experience or speaks your same language reaches out to connect you to resources and support available in your community, it can make a world of difference.
To address these urgent concerns, HealthierHere launched Care Connect Washington 1.0, the debut program of the HealthierHere Community Hub. This program was developed early in the pandemic to provide free, immediate support to people in King County who tested positive for COVID-19 so they could safely isolate at home. Through the program, Care Coordinators connected clients to community-based organizations that provide housing, food assistance, and other services. In addition, HealthierHere provided direct assistance to community members like free grocery delivery orders, financial assistance, and care kits with soap, sanitizer, thermometers, and masks.
With funding from the Washington Department of Health (DOH), HealthierHere serves as one of nine regional hubs collectively working with more than 100 local care coordinators to serve communities across the state. Ultimately, the program aims to mitigate the health, economic, and social effects COVID-19 has on communities, particularly those disproportionately impacted and historically marginalized.
A Model Rooted in Trusting Relationships
From the onset of the pandemic, HealthierHere’s COVID-19 response focused on centering community priorities and supporting whole-person care, an approach that considers the many factors that influence people’s lives and well-being. Building on relationships with local community-based organizations in our network, HealthierHere partnered with El Centro de la Raza, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, Sisters in Common, and WithinReach as our initial Care Coordination Agencies (CCAs). Drawing on deep, trusting connections with their communities, these organizations provide linguistically and culturally responsive services to meet client’s goals and needs. HealthierHere also hired a Community Hub Manager, Community Hub Referral Specialist, and four temporary staff, including a Community Hub Coordinator, Procurement Specialist, and two Care Coordinators to help launch and run the program.
Trina Ragaza, a Case Manager for Lutheran Community Services Northwest, has provided a helping hand to community members recovering from COVID-19 who are struggling to get by. Earlier this summer, when she received a client, a mother of five who needed support feeding her family, Trina jumped into action and reached out to Stephen Gray, Deacon and Chief Operating Officer of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship, who helps run the fellowship’s local foodbank program. “I love helping people. That's my thing,” Ragaza shared. “I kind of took the initiative as far as going out and delivering the food. I know that's not in our job description, but if there's a family that needs food and they can't leave the house, I just felt a strong desire to help if could. I'm able bodied – I could go out and do something.”
Deacon Gray, who formerly worked with Ragaza at a local housing authority, shares this passion for serving people in his local communities – including immigrants, people who are unhoused or undocumented, and more – with a personal touch. “I love it when people reach out because people shouldn't be hungry in the richest nation on the planet, the history of the planet,” said Gray. “And I wish more people would reach out. We’re blessed to be able to be a blessing to others. There's no reason somebody should be hungry when we have all this food. Trina [goes] the extra mile to make sure that she can give [someone] peace of mind.” Together, they provided a delivery of culturally appropriate food to the mother and her five children.
Impact Highlights from Care Connect 1.0
Through Care Connect 1.0 in King County, we were able to offer life-saving support and services to thousands of diverse individuals and families. People who received Care Connect services in King County continue to tell us about the positive impact the program had on their lives. One former client shared that “Care Connect helped provide us with essentials that were vital to our family during the isolation period. With this help, we had no need to go out and possibly risk contaminating other members of our community.”
Between September 2022 and June 2023, HealthierHere’s Care Coordination Network served 3,249 clients across King County. HealthierHere took over direct service provision (grocery delivery, household financial assistance) from DOH in December and January. Some other highlights include the following:
- 2,721 households supported by food access (grocery orders), with 1,297 households supported by HealthierHere directly. The remaining 1,424 clients were served by DOH before HealthierHere took over grocery orders in January 2023.
- 1,342 clients supported with household assistance for rent/mortgage/utilities (HARs), with 709 clients supported by HealthierHere directly. The remaining 603 were served by DOH before HealthierHere and Solid Ground took over HARs in December 2022.
- Nearly $2 million spent on HARS to support clients, with $851,00 paid by HealthierHere via our Care Coordination Agency, Solid Ground.
- Most clients served resided in South King County and South Seattle zip codes.
- 83% of clients identified as Black, Indigenous, & People of Color (BIPOC), with 43% of clients identifying as Black or African American.
- 27 community health workers and 10 supervisors served King County clients, including HealthierHere’s temporary Care Coordinators.
- Services were available in 13 spoken languages directly from HealthierHere Community Hub CCA staff, including Amharic, African American Vernacular English, Arabic, Dari, English, Farsi, Ge’ez, Oromo, Pashto, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, and Tigrinya.
A New Chapter: Introducing Care Connect 2.0
Now, we are excited to announce the launch of Care Connect 2.0! This new iteration of the program builds on the learnings from 1.0 and broadens the scope of eligibility to anyone impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program now serves clients with a variety of social and health needs and is intended to benefit individuals and families struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic. Some examples include people dealing with long COVID, behavioral health concerns due to deaths of family or friends, loss of employment, difficulty affording basic necessities, and more.
As of July 1st, 2023, Care Connect 2.0 focuses on COVID recovery rather than isolation and quarantine support. Care coordinators work with clients over a longer period (3-6 months) and check in regularly to help clients achieve their goals. Direct services like grocery delivery orders, financial assistance, and care kits are no longer available through Care Connect. Instead, the program provides clients with a care coordinator who will connect them to the community-based services they may need to reach their goals for their health. In addition to resource navigation and referrals, current program benefits include health education, coaching, goal setting, action planning, and system navigation. HealthierHere is excited to welcome the YMCA of Greater Seattle as the newest Care Coordination Agency to join our Community Hub!
Even following the end of the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and other shifting priorities and funding, HealthierHere remains committed to centering community-led solutions that create a lasting impact on the health and well-being of the people of King County. Together with organizations and communities across the county and state, we can transform our health and social systems to support people to thrive, not just survive. We extend our gratitude to everyone who was a part of the first year of this innovative program. We will continue to share progress on Care Connect 2.0, as one piece of HealthierHere’s evolving care coordination efforts.
How to Get involved
To learn more about these programs and ways to connect communities to care, please:
- Visit the HealthierHere Community Hub web page
- See our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Organizations & Agencies
- Subscribe to the HealthierHere newsletter to receive updates and opportunities to engage
If you are looking to refer a potential client to the HealthierHere Community Hub, please visit our Referrals page.