Health Leads envisions a healthcare system that addresses all patients’ basic resource needs as a standard part of quality care. Their mission is to catalyze this healthcare system by connecting patients with the basic resources they need to be healthy, and in doing so build leaders with the conviction and ability to champion quality care for all patients.
In Chicago, Health Leads enables healthcare providers at the Chicago Family Health Center to prescribe the food, heat, and other basic resources their patients need to be healthy, alongside prescriptions for medication. Patients then take those prescriptions to a Health Leads Desk (program site) in the clinic waiting room, where Advocates (college student volunteers) help them access community resources and public benefits.
Last year, the Washington Square Health Foundation helped fund the tools, resources and staffing that Health Leads needed to implement an improved method for clinic providers to systematically screen their patients for non-medical needs, and refer those with needs to Health Leads’ services. It is with the Foundation’s support of this project that Health Leads was able to develop a richer and more collaborative partnership with the clinical teams at Chicago Family Health Center.
As a result of this improved clinical integration, Advocates can now more efficiently serve a growing number of low-income Chicago families. In 2014, Health Leads served nearly 2,000 Chicago families—representing more than 6,600 adults and children—and a 37% increase in client volume over the previous year. The work of Health Leads Advocates to connect low-income families to resources—such as health insurance, childcare, employment, GED classes and job training—enables them to avert crises and increase their income and educational attainment, two critical determinants of better, long-term health.
Health Leads Chicago began serving families at the Chicago Family Health Center (CFHC) at the South Chicago location in 2010. In 2013, Health Leads opened a second program site at the Chicago Lawn location—expanding CFHC’s capacity to build a coordinated and comprehensive approach to care that addresses the basic resource needs of patients for clinic providers like Dr. Kohar Jones:
“I love being able to refer patients to Health Leads. When I’m in clinic and a patient reveals a life on the economic margins, teetering into illness, I have a simple tool to keep them from falling over the edge.”