Alliance Community Health and Well-Being (CHWB) staff have expanded efforts to improve well-being in our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic through strategic partnerships to reach people in areas of highest unmet social needs.
Factors such as income, employment, education, food security and housing are known to affect health and well-being, and all have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “When you’re out there in it you realize that the TV does not do it justice,” said Ann Oshel Alliance Senior Vice President—CHWB. “People are really struggling and suffering.”
To reach these people and let them know where to turn for help, Alliance has teamed up with providers and community organizations in new ways.
In one initiative, funded through the CARES Act, outreach teams from Southlight Healthcare and Renew Counseling Center are canvassing in neighborhoods with high rates of COVID-19 infections. The canvassers visit businesses and homes in these areas and offer emotional support and information about accessing helping resources, including the Hope4NC helpline.
“We’re in some neighborhoods where they have a 60% positive rate,” Oshel said. “We know that just about everywhere we’re going somebody knows somebody or has been personally affected,” she said.
Food is a major area of increased need caused by the pandemic, so Alliance has partnered with NC Cooperative Extension Wake County Center and Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) as part of their food insecurity response. “It is huge what they’re doing, and it’s a terrific opportunity to make sure people know where to get help,” Oshel said.
Alliance staff have participated in food distribution events almost weekly, giving out packets that include information about Hope4NC, Alliance Health, and crisis services. At a recent drive-up food distribution at First United Methodist Church Cary, Oshel passed info to people in more than 400 cars that lined up for a Thanksgiving meal, groceries and gift cards. “They are in line for food, which is indicative of some kind of struggle, and everyone just wants to talk about how hard this has been,” she said.
In addition, people in each car scanned a QR code that led to a community outreach survey asking about specific needs each family may have. Those who indicate they are interested in mental health counseling and support are referred to Alliance for follow-up as part of Hope4NC outreach efforts.
Alliance staff will also be participating in upcoming events in partnership with WCPSS and the InterFaith Food Shuttle to deliver food to families currently housed in hotels, with mental health and Hope4NC information included in each box.
Another initiative Alliance has joined is the effort by WCPSS to address students who have not engaged in virtual learning. Alliance staff are analyzing school system data to see if we are already doing outreach into the neighborhoods with a high number of absentees and to help WCPSS determine what interventions and resources can help engage the missing students.
“It’s tens of thousands of kids” who have either never connected to the classroom or engaged only episodically, Oshel said. “The school system is concerned that there might be something more significant going on with the families, and they have asked us to provide some resources,” she said.
“It has evolved from the school system asking us to provide information and join them at events to asking us to work with together with them to make sure the families and students they are really concerned about have somebody to talk to,” Oshel said.
North Carolinians experiencing stress during this trying time can get free crisis counseling from Hope4NC by calling 1-855-587-346;3.