VISTA Stories

Britney Hodges, DuPage Health Coalition

Britney Hodges headshotBeing an AmeriCorps VISTA at DuPage Health Coalition (DHC), I have worked on many projects throughout my nine months of service to help increase enrollment and engagement through different methods of community outreach for our programs including Access DuPage, Silver Access, and DuPage Dispensary of Hope.

Recently, I had the opportunity to help develop and create our new Access DuPage Referral Program. Access DuPage is a program that helps individuals who don’t qualify for health insurance to receive medical care through a network of hospitals, pharmacies, and doctors’ offices. This referral program was designed to connect more people in our community to health care services by rewarding existing patients for sharing their experiences with their peers. In addition, this referral program will increase enrollment and boost engagement with our new and existing clients to help establish relationships and potentially generate ambassadors for our organization.

As a continued project, I have been working with the Development Director to create and update new marketing materials intended for patients and community members, improving DHC’s social media presence by posting consistently on all social media platforms, and conducting better outreach strategies to target community groups such as churches and faith-based organizations. By helping to increase enrollment and engagement of our programs, we can establish strong partnerships with individual community members, increase our organizational growth through funding, and provide quality health services to vulnerable populations to aid in developing healthier communities.

Caitlin Fernandez, DuPage Health Coalition

Caitlin Fernandez headshotAs a VISTA at the DuPage Health Coalition (DHC), I have had the opportunity to work on many projects to help support the organization’s different programs, including Access DuPage, Silver Access, and the DuPage Dispensary of Hope.

This past fall, I had the opportunity to assist with Silver Access enrollment and helped to connect our members with Marketplace navigators throughout the community. Silver Access DuPage is an Affordable Care Act (ACA) premium assistance program for low-income DuPage County residents. Currently, I am assisting with Access DuPage enrollment. Access DuPage is a program that helps connect low-income and uninsured DuPage County residents with access to affordable healthcare.

As an ongoing project, I have been working to improve the DHC’s methods of data reporting. This includes helping other DHC employees improve their Microsoft Excel skills, creating CVS Caremark reports to better track our patient’s prescription costs, and developing Silver Access’ methods of data collection and reporting in our electronic record system. By helping to increase the efficiency and accuracy of how we create reports, we can better monitor organization performance and growth to improve how we serve our patients and clients.

Faith Tan, Champaign County Christian Health Center

Faith Tan headshotThroughout the past nine months as a VISTA with the Champaign County Christian Health Center, I have had the opportunity to work on several projects that have helped provide support for our volunteers, who in turn provide our patients with quality care.

In November, the CCCHC hosted its second annual fundraising dinner. In addition to the fundraising component, it was a night of celebrating our volunteers’ dedication and hard work and included an inspirational keynote speaker. As part of the group planning the dinner, I was able to connect with the community and solicit support from past donors. The dinner helped us raise a substantial amount that allowed us to purchase necessary equipment.

Since then, I have been involved in efforts to support our volunteer team as well as expand our services. I have recruited several new providers, including a dietitian, a physician’s assistant, and several nurse practitioners, and lead the effort to add more triage nurses and hospitality volunteers. To better manage the larger group of volunteers, I have developed a system for managing volunteer schedules, as well as created more specific roles to ensure smooth client flow. As a result, we have been able to see more patients, treat a wider variety of cases, and increase the amount of time providers spend with each of their patients.

I have loved being a part of a team that is so dedicated to providing the under- and uninsured population with the health services they need. It’s truly an inspiration to see our volunteers’ caring hearts in action and it’s been a privilege to be able to support their hard work.

Nayelie Mendoza, CommunityHealth

Nayelie Mendoza headshotThroughout the past 10 months as a VISTA with CommunityHealth, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and recruit more than 500 volunteers. Being part of the largest volunteer-based free clinic in the nation, securing volunteer support in turn means providing quality health care to our patients.

In April, CommunityHealth celebrated the annual National Volunteer Month to recognize the 1,000+ volunteers that support the clinic each day. Throughout that month, I organized games, interviewed last year’s volunteers of year to set up “volunteer spotlights”, provided snacks in the lounge, and gave out CommunityHealth keychains and stickers. In addition to celebrating our volunteers’ dedication and hard work, National Volunteer Month is an opportunity to connect and engage with volunteers in an effort to better support and expand our resources to volunteers.

Since then, I have been involved in efforts to provide more resources to our volunteer team, especially to volunteer interpreters, such as topic areas for growth, tips, and examples of best practices. As a former spanish interpreter volunteer, my interest stems directly from my previous volunteer experience and desire to provide more resources for current and onboarding volunteers. As a VISTA, I quickly learned the importance of correctly communicating health care information between the provider-patient dynamic, and how it affects the treatment process.

I have loved being a part of a team that is so dedicated to providing quality health care to the uninsured. It’s truly an inspiration to see so many volunteers care for and support CommunityHealth’s mission, and it’s been a privilege to be able to supplement their hard work.

Alexia Ng, Will-Grundy Medical Clinic

Alexia Ng headshotAt Will-Grundy Medical Clinic, one of my VISTA projects has been to re-launch and manage the CDC-based Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). The DPP targets individuals who are clinically screened as pre-diabetic, with the ultimate goal of preventing the diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes in these vulnerable individuals through adopting healthier lifestyle habits that result in improved health outcomes by the end of the year-long program.

Our clinic was one of the first in Illinois to adopt the evidence-based model and ran three cohorts from 2015 to early 2017. The opportunity for the clinic to host VISTAs for the first time has allowed for the planning and re-launch of the DPP. I have coordinated the program’s marketing outreach, coach recruitment and training, participant screening, enrollment, course scheduling and data collection. In building a sustainability plan, I am developing a guidebook for more transient program managers to facilitate the transition into their role.

Throughout this process, I have so enjoyed being able to see and learn from the different talents of my colleagues who have been instrumental in assisting with participant screening, recruitment and enrollment. On April 1st, the DPP held its first session of the year. It has been a great pleasure to use part of my time as a VISTA at WGMC to coordinate the re-launch of this incredibly valuable opportunity to help improve the health and quality of life of both patient and non-patient community members.

Breanna Grow, Community Health Care Clinic

Breanna Grow headshotMuch of my work as a VISTA at the Community Health Care Clinic in Normal has been dedicated to securing additional funding for programs and services, including the new dental clinic.

Last fall, I submitted two grant applications to secure the final start-up costs for the dental clinic. With the combined $34,000 of funds, CHCC opened the county’s first free dental clinic for under- and uninsured residents on February 1, 2019. Since then, the dental clinic has seen nearly 160 patients at almost 300 visits. This spring we submitted another two grants to purchase dentures, partials, caps and crowns for restorative work at the dental clinic.

It has been incredibly rewarding to hear from some of the first patients in the dental clinic. These are individuals who work long hours every day, but don’t have coverage through their workplace and can’t afford to purchase dental coverage. They’ve gone years, sometimes decades, knowing that their teeth were in bad shape, but were unable to do anything about it. Now that they can come to CHCC’s dental clinic, they can look forward to feeling more confident in their smile and eating healthier foods, without worrying about a big bill in the mail.