New community navigation program finding success

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Greenfield-based Healthy365 is part of an initiative that helps those released from the Hancock County Jail overcome barriers so they don’t return.

Daily Reporter file photo

HANCOCK COUNTY – A new initiative to help those released from the county’s jail overcome barriers so they don’t return is currently assisting about 60 people.

That initiative, called community support navigation, is led by Healthy365, Hancock Health’s community health arm. Hancock County government officials approved $2.75 million toward the efforts from the funds the county received from the American Rescue Plan last year.

In a presentation to the Hancock County Council earlier this month, Amanda Everidge, director of community health improvement with Healthy365, recalled how the county’s new jail recently hired its second navigator after its first started last June.

“What they do is critical to how we implement and operate in our program,” Everidge said.

In the jail, navigators provide services for inmates like performing social needs assessments, scheduling programs and treatment that the new jail offers, and providing direct referrals to community support navigation.

Everidge said Healthy365’s community support navigator also started in June, just like the jail’s first navigator. She added Healthy365 is in the process of offering a job to its second community support navigator.

The community support navigator visits the jail at least once a week and meets with jail navigation staff, Everidge continued, adding they discuss who is incarcerated, who was recently released, what their social needs are and what barriers they are facing toward those social needs.

Needs could include health care, mental health care, substance use treatment, food, clothing, shelter or transportation. Everidge said the community support navigator even helps ensure those leaving jail have weather-appropriate attire upon their release through a partnership with Hope House’s thrift store.

The community navigator has had 101 referrals so far, Everidge said, 57 of which are active. Twelve are on hold – meaning the navigator has started working with the client and is now in a holding pattern. Twenty-three cases have been closed, whether due to successfully connecting the client with all their needs, the potential client was unable to be reached after leaving jail, or the potential client didn’t need or want help.

“You always start small – test it out – so if you need to change, you don’t need to change the process for 100 people, you only have to change the process for 15, 20 people, and then work out the kinks,” Everidge said. “I think we’re at a point where we’ve worked out a lot of the kinks and are really going to hit the ground running in ’23.”

She described the initiative as a “truly collaborative” effort between Healthy365, Community Fairbanks Behavioral Health and the county’s justice system.

“This is taking input and guidance, changing policies, changing procedures and creating opportunities where we never would’ve thought there could’ve been opportunities, and opportunities that individuals prior to this did not have,” she said.

The county’s American Rescue Plan funds for the initiative will fund it through 2026, after which officials hope to have a way to sustain it.

Everidge noted therapy is billable, as is some case management, but that the majority of what community support navigation sets out to achieve would need some kind of outside funding source.

“This has been a two-part scenario – getting the facilities, first, that you can isolate alike people that want treatment and not be affected by people that don’t,” said Kent Fisk, a Hancock County Council member. “…This’ll run out in 2026, but now that these programs are set up and starting to have an effect, eventually that next block will have to be addressed.”