Aunt Bertha & L.A. Care — Providing Care to LA’s Most Vulnerable Communities When They Needed It Most

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L.A. Care Health Plan is the largest publicly operated health plan in the United States, providing access to quality, affordable healthcare for more than two million residents in Los Angeles County.

When L.A. Care hired Dr. Richard Seidman as its newest Chief Medical Officer in June 2017, he entered the organization with a mission to better prioritize interventions and care that focus on social determinants of health (SDoH) given their influence on community health outcomes. Dr. Seidman established an interdepartmental SdoH committee, which after much research outlined five key SDoH for L.A. Care to focus on: food security, transportation, housing security, early education and development, and income security. The new focus on SDoH interventions came at an opportune time, just as Medi-Cal was rolling out its new Health Homes Program (HHP). The new HHP put an emphasis on coordinating and providing care services across the “full range of physical health, behavioral, and community-based long-term services and supports (LTSS)” needed by Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

As part of the new HHP, L.A. Care needed to develop a community resource directory (CRD) that could effectively serve its patients in Los Angeles County for the years ahead. L.A. Care had previously been in touch with Aunt Bertha regarding a potential partnership prior to the launch of the HHP, and formally solicited a bid from the company in January 2019. After an extensive review process, L.A. Care selected Aunt Bertha as its new partner for the development of its CRD in April 2019.

The only caveat? The California Department of Health Care Services stipulated the CRD needed to be live by July 1st, 2019.

Building Community Link

L.A. Care Medical Director of Behavioral Health and Social Services Dr. Michael Brodsky, who was one of the key actors from L.A. Care working with Aunt Bertha on the new CRD, understood the urgency of the situation. Based on his prior experience with other medical technology partnerships, the fast-approaching deadline for getting the CRD up and running was a tall order.

However, the Aunt Bertha customer success team went to work on the CRD and in collaboration with L.A. Care was able to get the new platform up-and-running in just months. And despite the compressed timeline, the L.A. Care Community Link platform launched without issue — providing users with an intuitive search experience for social services and resources in their ZIP Code.

Following the launch of the L.A. Care Community Link platform, L.A. Care launched a campaign to raise awareness of the new platform, including those clinics throughout Los Angeles County that are a part of the HHP.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Understanding the potential catastrophic effects that the COVID-19 pandemic could have on the Los Angeles community as the outbreak was worsening, L.A. Care developed an ambitious outreach campaign for more than 200,000 of the health plan’s members in March 2020. The outreach initiative focused on members who are most vulnerable to the pandemic — including those with chronic conditions, individuals from the Black, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander communities, and older individuals in Los Angeles County. The outreach proved to be critical to the well-being of L.A. Care’s most vulnerable members, ensuring that preventive care and medication priorities were being taken care of for a population that could least afford any gaps in coverage.

L.A. Care staff also incorporated personal and household needs inquiries into the outreach — identifying the concerns that were impacting L.A. Care members beyond their immediate medical concerns. Early on in the pandemic, L.A. Care uncovered data indicators on the L.A. Care Community Link platform indicating significant food and housing insecurity concerns among its members, with many struggling with the dilemma between affording food or their medications due to the economic impact of the pandemic. Based upon these findings, L.A. Care CEO John Baackes worked with L.A. Care leadership to authorize new emergency grants for organizations addressing SDoH in Los Angeles County. This included more than $550,000 to Project Angel Food, which provides free meals to those who are unable to shop or cook for themselves due to chronic medical conditions.

Additionally, L.A. Care added the L.A. Care Community Link platform to its main COVID-19 response page — helping increase awareness and expanding access to the free and reduced cost resources available via the platform. Since then, the platform has averaged nearly 1,000 users per month — a 400% increase compared to the months prior to the pandemic, with the majority of users seeking food assistance.

Continuing Support Amidst the Pandemic

Now, with future government support uncertain and existing federal subsidies for many relief programs running out, L.A. Care has curated COVID-specific resource folders on the L.A. Care Community Link site for the HHP clinic partners and other community health centers. These folders have become invaluable to healthcare providers in the L.A. area, providing timely information on resources that personnel can use to better coordinate care for individuals in need during these unprecedented times.

Aunt Bertha’s support has been critical to these efforts, with its full-time data team helping ensure that the community resource database is being updated in real-time with new programs and changes to existing programs throughout the pandemic. When L.A. Care flags a program question to the team, Aunt Bertha is able to respond and confirm all the relevant information in no more than two days — a turnaround time that L.A. Care couldn’t have dreamed of prior to the launch of the L.A. Care Community Link platform.

Developing the Los Angeles Resource Collaborative

Beyond its direct support of L.A. Care and the L.A. Care Community Link platform, Aunt Bertha has worked with the organization to develop the broader Los Angeles Resource Collaborative. The Collaborative is focused on building a community of social service agencies, community benefit organizations, and healthcare organizations in Los Angeles County so that healthcare and social services can be better coordinated and provisioned to those in need throughout the county.

The pandemic has illustrated the need for the Collaborative more than ever, but L.A. Care and Aunt Bertha have been working together on it since before the worst of the pandemic’s impact was felt. In February 2020, L.A. Care partnered with Aunt Bertha to convene the first meeting of the Collaborative with the expanded partner network of health plans, hospitals, and dental plans in Los Angeles, using the venue as a forum for discussing how the organizations could better work together to coordinate care for their communities. This also included an emphasis on streamlining work for community benefit organizations so that they could serve overlapping needs to several different healthcare partners at once. Rather than having the same conversations with different partners, this helps the community organizations more efficiently utilize time and resources while achieving the same outcomes.

The economic impact of COVID-19 is going to be felt by Americans — particularly its most vulnerable communities — for potentially years to come. Our mission continues to be focused on ensuring all Americans can find the help they need, when they need it. And it’s why Aunt Bertha is proud to work with partners like L.A. Care who are leading the way in rethinking how we address community health and social care needs.

To learn more about Aunt Bertha, please visit our website.