HANCOCK COUNTY — Sometimes, it’s about more than medicine.

Hospital officials realize while they strive to offer the best medical care available, that’s only part of what makes people feel better when they have to be in the hospital. They also need peace of mind — to know things aren’t falling apart at home and that someone is thinking of them.

To bolster that multi-faceted healing process, Hancock Health is working with community leaders to make sure patients know things at home are taken care of, whether that’s grabbing the mail or feeding the dogs, while they’re in the hospital — and their community is rallying behind them as they are on the mend.

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The Hancock Health Congregational Network, a year-long effort whose leaders are now trained and ready to serve their first patients, connects the hospital and area churches to ensure their congregations are cared for spiritually and practically, as well as medically, when members are admitted to the hospital, said the director of the program, Amanda Everidge.

Ten area churches have selected liaisons within their membership to serve as a point person for a parishioner who has been hospitalized, taking on basic home responsibilities if needed or putting their name on the church prayer list, she said.

It’s the start of a program hospital leaders hope could one day expand to reach larger populations within the community. But the program is kicking off with influential members of the county’s faith communities in order to reach as many people as possible, she said. In the last year, some 250 church members have agreed to add their names to the list.

Liaisons meet monthly with Everidge to discuss the needs of their congregations and brainstorm solutions to their health care-related issues, Everidge said. Each liaison shares what services are available within each church, from support groups to wheelchair ramp-building initiatives, bolstering the network of support among participating churches, she said.

“We’re trying to connect the patient back to their congregation and give them social and spiritual support that’s not necessarily provided through health care,” Everidge said. “It gives them an extra layer of love to help ensure they’re healing as well as they can be.”

Hospital officials began working last March to identify member churches for the congregational network; the 14 church liaisons first met in January of this year to begin their training, Everidge said. The network alerts the liaisons when one of their members is admitted to the hospital. The signup process serves as a privacy release, so Everidge and church liaisons may visit and see to the patient’s needs, she said.

Liaisons can also let other parishioners know a fellow member is in the hospital and arrange visits from the pastor, as well as hospital chaplains, Everidge said.

Even when all a church’s members are healthy, the hospital looks to liaisons to educate their fellow churchgoers about what health resources are available within the church, hospital and the community.

Angie Walker, one of two liaisons at St. Michael Catholic Church in Greenfield, serves about 80 members of the church who have signed up for the program.

Walker was already a volunteer with the church, providing communion services to home-bound or hospitalized parishioners, when the Rev. Aaron Jenkins asked her to consider signing on to the congregational network, she said.

A longtime volunteer with a hospice where she lived before moving to Hancock County, Walker jumped on board with the program, which allows her to serve communion and provide companionship to hospitalized members of the St. Michael congregation, she said.

“I know there’s a need for something like this in society, and I know people who need help don’t always feel comfortable asking for it,” she said. “This allows us to do that service for them.”

Eric Ott, who has served as a church deacon at Calvary Baptist Church for three years, also decided to add church liaison to his list of volunteer positions. The Greenfield church already offers a myriad of services to its congregation, from transportation help to meals, so church leaders thought the healthcare initiative would fit their mission, Ott said.

Ott hopes the network will ensure no member of Calvary Baptist feels alone in their time of need.

“We’ve had people from our church in the hospital, and no one knew at the time,” he said. “I think it’s not only a benefit to the overall health of the congregation, which I think will be better served, but I think it’s an opportunity for serving Hancock County as a whole, not just the church. It lends itself to being able to provide services community-wide.”

Participating churches

The following churches are currently participating in the Hancock Health Congregational Network:

  • Otterbein United Methodist Church, 2901 W. County Road 200N, Greenfield
  • Zion Lutheran Church, 6513 W. County Road 300S, New Palestine
  • Knightstown Christian Church, 138 W. Main St., Knightstown
  • Calvary Baptist Church, 1450 W. Main St., Greenfield
  • Park Chapel Christian Church, 1176 E. McKenzie Road, Greenfield
  • Realife Church, 971 W. U.S. 40, Greenfield
  • St. James Lutheran Church, 1741 S. State St., Greenfield
  • St. Michael Catholic Church, 519 Jefferson Blvd., Greenfield
  • Carrollton United Methodist Church, 1060 W. U.S. 52, Fountaintown
  • Amity United Methodist Church, 6042 W. County Road 100N, Greenfield

Get involved

The Hancock Health Congregational Network appoints church liaisons to see to the needs of parishioners who are hospitalized.

The network is accepting member churches. To learn more, call Amanda Everidge at 317-468-4231 or email aeveridge@hancockregional.org.

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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.