UCare is galvanizing the power of its people to ensure all its members have more equitable access to care.
Among UCare’s 630,000+ members are new Americans, BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ individuals, and people with disabilities. The organization is proactively working to provide more inclusivity to them and anyone else facing greater social and economic burdens due to structural oppression.
Some challenges arise in specific communities. The organization formed a Community Response Team in early 2021, allowing team members to flex as necessary to members’ needs.
The 15-plus member team is focusing on COVID response, but it also screens for medical issues, mental health and substance use disorders or other social needs that may be adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The team also provides education and support for COVID-19 prevention, testing and vaccination.
“The pandemic accelerated our concerns about health equity for the members we serve,” said Jennifer Garber, Vice President of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services. “We wanted to remove barriers to vaccinations such as transportation and language, and also to de-complicate all the conflicting information about COVID-19 for our members. That is just what our talented and diverse Community Response Team does every day.”
UCare Foundation team members and community relations staff also connect with trusted community leaders and organizations to reduce health inequities. For example, UCare recently operated 80 COVID-19 vaccine clinics in partnership with Hennepin Healthcare, The Stairstep Foundation and the MN Department of Health, providing 8,300 vaccines and 95,000 KN95 masks to individuals in underserved communities across the state.
The Community Response Team includes a manager, a team lead, case managers, community health workers and engagement specialists. Team members speak multiple languages, they come from diverse cultural backgrounds, and they bring diverse skill sets to their role.
“Our team members have become trusted resources for our members during a stressful, confusing time,” Garber said.