Hospital connects with area churches

GREENFIELD — Hancock Regional Hospital officials are seeking church members to serve as a link between the hospital and local faith communities.

Russel Jarvis, the hospital’s chaplaincy services director, is spearheading the church liaison program. The hope is for local pastors who have volunteered their services to appoint a person or team in their congregations whose responsibilities will be two-pronged: first, they will educate their congregations about preventive health and the hospital resources available to keep people well. Second, they’ll focus on patient care, visiting patients in the hospital and making sure the individuals have the medication and follow-up care they need once they’re discharged.

The program is part of the hospital’s efforts to make the entire community healthier, not just treat people who already are ill.

The Rev. Richard Thayer’s congregation at Knightstown Christian Church is among those joining the initiative.

Thayer said he’ll ask his volunteers to make sure church members’ spiritual and physical needs are met.

“The liaison will educate the congregation on good health and make interventions whenever necessary,” he said.

The liaison will connect those in need to organizations and services — whether through the hospital or elsewhere — that can provide aid.

Congregation members in need might be more receptive to a friendly face, someone they know from church, than a doctor or healthcare professional they’ve never met, Jarvis said.

In addition, having an established link between churches and health care resources could make reaching out a bit easier for those who are used to taking care of others while putting their own needs on the back burner, said the Rev. Aaron Jenkins of St. Michael Catholic Church, which also is participating.

Jenkins, whose parishioners number nearly 2,500, envisions the hospital liaison program deepening the bond among the groups involved.

Though the pilot program, slated to begin by year’s end, will start with 10 different Christian churches in the area, Jarvis said the idea could work with any group of people, faith-based or not — a volunteer liaison could serve a workplace, for example.

The role of area pastors will vary based on the size, age and health of the congregation, as well as the specific vision of the pastor, Jarvis said.

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.