Cross-posted with permission from the Connect2 Community Network website:
We’re thrilled to share the Connect2 Community Network’s vision and progress with communities in King County, Washington State and beyond. Today we took the opportunity to spread the word about our work by issuing a press release to local news outlets. Please feel free to read and share!
For Immediate Release
Seattle, WA – Feb 17, 2021
People in King County will soon find it easier to get connected to services they need thanks to the Connect2 Community Network, a regional community information exchange (CIE) being developed by a coalition of health and social service organizations. The effort recently crossed a major milestone with the launch of a multi-sector advisory group to oversee design, implementation, and operation of the new network.
The Connect2 Community Network is committed to improving health equity by enabling coordination between health and social service organizations. It will link social service agencies, community-based organizations, behavioral health providers, clinics and health care systems in a unified network that can interoperate between different technology platforms and networks. Participating organizations will be able to use features like a shared resource database and bi-directional closed-loop referrals to strengthen their collaborations and holistically address clients’ needs.
Addressing disparities experienced by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color is a driving force behind this work, according to Susan McLaughlin, Executive Director of HealthierHere, a local nonprofit collaborative that is coordinating the effort. She sees it as a crucial missing link to improving population health. “We know 80% of a person’s health results from factors other than medical care. In King County, for example, approximately two out of every five Black households experience food insecurity, “ she said. “Yet it is incredibly difficult to connect people with the supports they need because the systems are so fragmented and hard to navigate. We’re building a unified region-wide network that will not only enable individuals and families to be quickly connected to needed services; it will help improve access to meaningful, culturally and linguistically responsive supports that work for community members.”
Navigating the system can be overwhelming, especially for those in crisis or with complex needs. “We could refer someone to resources, but we had no way of knowing if they were able to make an appointment or receive services,” noted AJ McClure, Executive Director of Global to Local, one of the organizations that signed on early to be a network partner. “The Connect2 Community Network will be transformative. We will not only be able to make a referral electronically and know if it was accepted; we will also be able to coordinate with other service providers on that individual’s needs and progress over time.”
Modeled after a public utility, the Connect2 Community Network will be owned and collaboratively governed by the community – with a singular focus on serving the interests of the people of King County. The newly formed 23-member Advisory Group serves as the network’s governing body. It is responsible for overseeing design, implementation and sustainability of the network, with support from cross-sector workgroups and guidance from the community. The group includes community leaders from over a dozen different sectors that are critical to the network’s success.
The effort has been two years in the making – and community-driven from the outset. The initial impetus came from HealthierHere’s community and clinical partners who identified an urgent need to break down the silos and create a more connected system. To assess the community’s appetite for such a bold initiative, HealthierHere convened a series of meetings with stakeholders, in partnership with Crisis Connections whose sister organization in San Diego built the nation’s first CIE. The response was overwhelmingly positive. A shared vision was developed, and work began in earnest to plan the CIE, with financial support from philanthropic and government sources, including King County’s Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy, HealthierHere’s Medicaid Transformation Project Incentive Funds and Kaiser Permanente. To date, more than 100 representatives from 75 different organizations have actively collaborated on the development of the Connect2 Community Network.
Community ownership and governance is essential to ensuring the focus stays on meeting the needs of people here, especially those impacted by systemic racism and other inequities, explained McLaughlin. She added, “It’s also critical that this be a collaborative effort that leverages the great work that is already being done. The Connect2 Community Network is not intended to replace existing systems or networks – it is intended to connect them in a way that is seamless and easy to use.”
With the pandemic exacerbating the need for services, efforts are moving forward rapidly. Cross-sector workgroups are co-creating policies and procedures to establish network standards, address legal considerations, enable responsible data sharing, and protect privacy. Community members, especially those most impacted by barriers and inequities in our current systems, are also being engaged to guide the work and ensure it will serve their needs. Simultaneously, work is underway to design and build a technology hub that can safely exchange select information with a variety of different platforms, says Sara Standish, who leads the HealthierHere team that provides backbone and administrative support for the development of the network.
Although the Connect2 technology hub will launch in early 2022, organizations can engage with the Connect2 Community Network now through its first technology partner, Unite Us. Their web-based platform enables closed-loop, bi-directional referrals between organizations that participate in their Unite Washington coordinated care network. Community health clinics and community-based social service organizations can use the Unite Us Platform free of charge, thanks to support from their Unite Washington funding partners, Community Health Plan of Washington, Kaiser Permanente, MultiCare Health System, Optum Care Network (Polyclinic, Everett Clinic and Northwest Physicians Network) and WestCare. Already dozens of community-based and clinical organizations have signed on, and HealthierHere is actively reaching out to recruit more. Interested organizations are encouraged to learn more at Connect2.org.