Support, Care, and Easy Access? Meet the Community That’s Making It Happen
Imagine! An accessible, connected system where medical, mental health, community-based and social service organizations work together to coordinate care and support … that no matter what organization you call, which provider you see, the type of insurance you have (or don’t have) or where you access services—you get quickly connected to what you need to be healthy and thrive.
To many who’ve struggled to navigate the existing healthcare and social service systems—before and during the COVID-19 pandemic—this may seem a lofty goal. Current systems are fragmented and disconnected, making it difficult for even the most experienced organizations to efficiently find resources, refer people to appropriate services, track if those services were received, or coordinate with others providing care and support. These issues perpetuate health disparities for populations that are most impacted by barriers to health and wellbeing, including, but not limited to older people, veterans, LGBTQ folks, and Black, Indigenous and people of color. Things need to change.
And there is hope in sight. Right here, in King County, WA, the Connect2 Community Network is turning the vision of a connected, regionwide system into a reality.
“When we started talking about the Connect2 Community Network, I honestly didn’t think that it would happen,” said Mo Chatta, board member for the Association of Zambians in Seattle, Washington, who serves on the Connect2 Community Network advisory group. “One of those things you talk about, you dream about—in a perfect world this would be happening. So, to actually see it happen, to see it moving forward, to see that we are doing this together and that I’m a part of it—it’s the most amazing feeling.”
More than 75 organizations across King County have come together to co-design, develop, and launch the Connect2 Community Network to improve information sharing and collaboration in service to community members across our region. This unique network is built on relationships and enabled by accessible, user-friendly technology. Most importantly, it is driven by community needs.
Older adults are a key focus population for Connect2 Community Network. Over 14 percent of King County’s population is currently age 65+ and an increase of almost 8 percent is projected within the next 10 years (see projections here). While not exclusively designed to serve any single community or demographic, the network has identified older adults as a priority population that it is focused on serving.
With leadership from partners such as Sound Generations and Aging and Disability Services—the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle and King County—the network is working to address barriers to effective and efficient care coordination for older adults across a wide spectrum of clinical, community and behavioral health services. Owned and governed by community, and with initial financial and backbone support from entities such as HealthierHere and the King County Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy, the network includes a wide variety of social service, community, tribal, government, and physical and behavioral health organizations that come together monthly to deepen trust and develop functionalities to streamline collaboration and information sharing. Together, we are building practical solutions that address the needs of those most impacted by health disparities, and systemic oppression.
Contributor Sully Moreno (she/her/ella) manages community outreach and engagement for the Connect2 Community Network, building the relationships with people, communities and organizations that are necessary to bring the vision of a community-driven, unified network to life. Sully (rhymes with Julie) welcomes questions or comments by e-mail or phone (206-413-7748).
This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of AgeWise King County.