This winter, three Regional Health Connectors (RHCs) helped bring vital screenings to some of Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties’ most vulnerable residents. Thanks to Meghan Prentiss, Kaitlin Wolff, and Laura Don, blood pressure screenings were among the many services that Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) was able to provide to homeless individuals during the Metro Denver area’s annual Point in Time Survey.
Point in Time is a census of Denver’s homeless community that is used to inform decisions about federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This year, the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative (MDHI), which leads the annual Point in Time survey, scheduled many “pop-up” events throughout the six-county Metro area to provide services for homeless individuals and survey them about their experiences.
As RHCs, Meghan, Kaitlin, and Laura were able to connect TCHD’s screening services to Point in Time events taking place across Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties on Monday, January 29 and Tuesday, January 30:
- Meghan Prentiss, the RHC for Adams County, was participating in the Point in Time survey because she knows many of the partners helping to organize the event through a collaborative in Westminster called Community Enrichment. Meghan organized representatives from THCD to provide Medicaid enrollment to a pop-up in Northglenn, and syringe exchange access and HIV linkages to care in to Commerce City, Northglenn, and Thornton. She also recruited Hunger Free Colorado to provide SNAP enrollment services in Westminster. During the Point in Time Event, she volunteered at the Westminster Swim and Fitness Center pop-up event and helped survey individuals as needed.
- Douglas County RHC Laura Don organized the healthcare services provided at Strive to Thrive, the pop-up event in her region for Point in Time. She reached out to many partner organizations and brought them to Strive to Thrive to provide services for individuals without homes. Laura’s efforts brought staffing and toothbrushes/toothpaste to distribute from Metro Community Provider Network; blood pressure and glucose checks from Central Colorado Area Health Education Center; nutrition education and WIC enrollment from TCHD; a dental hygienist and assistant from Peak Vista; and psychosocial screenings for things like food insecurity, health coverage, and other barriers to care from Doctor’s Care.
- In Arapahoe County, RHC Kaitlin Wolff is partnering with the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative after Point in Time ended. Thanks to her leadership on a project to bring affordable housing options to Arapahoe County, TCHD has signed a partnership agreement with MDHI so that public health nurses can now input people experiencing homelessness into MDHI’s central intake system.
While most organizations that host Regional Health Connectors host just one RHC, Meghan, Kaitlin, and Laura all work in regions covered by the Tri-County Health Department and are all hosted by TCHD.
Wendy Nading, Nurse Manager at TCHD and RHC Host Supervisor, summarized the impact the coordinated efforts of the RHCs are having on their respective regions and the tri-county area as a whole: “I am so impressed with this amazing group of RHCs! From my perspective, this is a big win for many reasons…it’s the first year TCHD, as a local public health agency, has provided systemic leadership, support and connectivity to this important response to homelessness in our community.”
This is just one example of ways Regional Health Connectors across Colorado are bringing together public health, human services, doctor’s offices, and other community groups to improve health.
In addition to the resources that Meghan brought to the event in Westminster, many other services and supports were provided to individuals experiencing homelessness to help them be safe and healthy. Some of these resources included dental kits donated by a local dentist’s office; a hot meal provided by The Gourmet Kitchen Catering; haircuts from a Westminster community member; hats and scarves that an individual knit for the event; towels and toiletry kits from Crawford Hotels; and glucose screenings and blood pressure checks by students at Red Rocks Community College. You can read more about the Westminster event here.
This post is by Rebecca Rapport, a program manager for the RHC program at the Colorado Health Institute