Getting the Information Out to the Most Vulnerable

It is an honor to be nominated for the White House Champions of Change. My Pastor Dr. Ternae Jordan Sr. once told me that in order to fulfill my true purpose, it should become “my ministry.” That’s what I have the honor of doing on my job every day as the Regional Coordinator for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) at the Southeast Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability. One of the problems that I see and strive to address is the fact that many within the community are disproportionately isolated from services and information due to barriers within many service delivery systems. It is my desire to increase awareness of topics important to seniors and caregivers as well as to continually strive to inform and educate the community about health insurance.

As the SHIP Regional Coordinator, I saw a need to be innovative on how to reach the most vulnerable individuals throughout the Southeast TN region who were struggling to understand their health insurance benefits as well engage them in receiving services. Those innovative ways have included many activities to impact the community. However, the greatest has been reaching out to community faith-based organizations to assist Medicare beneficiaries with both accessing benefits and providing health education.

 A local radio station (Glory 1260) allowed me the platform to reach individuals whose primary resource for obtaining information was through radio. Realizing I had to reach individuals through a resource they “trusted”, I hosted a show called “Medicare Connection.” This weekly show featured education topics about benefits and preventive services specifically in relation to the Affordable Care Act.  Out in the community, individuals who have listened to the show have expressed their gratitude about what they have learned about the Affordable Care Act and/or their benefits. My goal has not only been to increase enrollment and knowledge about benefits, but it has also been to contribute to reducing health disparities among minority communities. I’ve been able to do this by partnering with many faith-based organizations such as the Mt. Canaan Baptist Church, in Chattanooga, TN which has been a site for outreach and enrollment activities. This church serves within a community with large numbers of low-income residents as well as high incidences of chronic health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, heart disease. It is truly a passion of mine to somehow connect the service delivery systems (or what we know as social services) and our faith-based organizations. I believe we must meet our most vulnerable individuals, in the place where they are most likely to turn to when in need…the church! So with that said, when it comes to all of our services, we must begin to work and partner with parishes, synagogues, pastors, etc to be able to reach those who are not coming to your agency, who are not coming into your businesses, or attending your schools, etc.

Bottom line for me -- it’s about impacting the community and affecting the individuals in those communities. At the end of each day, if I can be one person who impacts a congregation and/or a community, by providing those “innovative” ways to reach those who are isolated, or who don’t necessarily understand their health insurance benefits, or who can’t access their benefits: then I’ve done my part.

Katherlyn Geter has been the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) Regional Coordinator, for the Southeast Tennessee Development District/Area Agency on Aging and Disability, in Chattanooga, TN for the past 10 years.

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