Veronica Rosario was a single mother raising two young boys, Jamier Omar (“Omi”), age 7, and Carlos, age 13, when the unthinkable happened – Omi was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Having lost her husband to cancer, Veronica would have to navigate Omi’s medical challenge on her own.
In need of a support system, she sought help from the Connecticut Children’s Center for Care Coordination program (CCC). The CCC empowers families by helping them advocate for access to appropriate medical, behavioral, educational, legal and social services.
The center also provides training and technical support for community-based primary care providers, supporting them to become medical homes for the children they serve. The CCC, which helped empower Veronica and her family to thrive, is part of the Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health, also known as the Office. It addresses critical issues in children’s lives that have the potential to adversely affect their health and development.
Veronica received medical advice, help navigating the complex health care landscape, and an empathetic shoulder to lean on.
“The Center for Care Coordination is a lifeline for me, a support system. They’re family,” Veronica said.
The CCC helped Veronica acclimate to Connecticut, which was her new home after moving from Puerto Rico. Through the center, she was able to get assistance finding schooling as well as housing options.
“It’s about making sure the family feels supported; that the family is on the right track,” Veronica said. “And sometimes you need that feeling of a pat on the back. ‘You’re doing well’ you know? ‘You’re doing well and everything is going to work out.’ That feeling is so, so helpful.”
Eventually, that simple pat on the back turned into more than Veronica could’ve expected.
“For Christmas, the Center for Care Coordination helped me to find toys for the children, and a coat for Carlos because he needed a winter jacket,” said Veronica, who is now active in patient advocacy through local organizations and the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children and Seniors. “These are services that go beyond just medicine — the clinical aspect of it.”
Veronica’s story is a peek into how our health care system, both in Connecticut and across the nation, is putting much greater emphasis on the social factors that have a big impact on an individual’s health and well-being. Eighty-percent of what influences a person’s health has nothing to do with medical care, but rather things like access to affordable housing, transportation and healthy food.
The Office not only serves as a critical community resource in Connecticut, but also cultivates innovative and cost-effective solutions to address existing gaps in our health care and child service systems nationwide. The ability to influence children’s health programs outside New England was enabled, in part, through a $1 million grant and knowledge resources from UnitedHealthcare in 2014 that helped the organization scale its programs.
“The importance of the Office’s strategic alliance with UnitedHealthcare in terms of reach, experience and infrastructure support that have enabled our organization to maximize resources and achieve scale cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Paul Dworkin, executive vice president for Community Health at Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health. “UnitedHealthcare has been an extraordinary partner for us, not just in providing funding to enable us to grow our office and initiatives, but also in terms of being a key partner in our thinking and planning.”
UnitedHealthcare’s collaboration with the Office has helped bolster a number of programs including The Children’s Center on Family Violence, primary care referral guidelines for specialty care, physician quality improvement, enhanced after-care and infrastructure.
UnitedHealthcare collaborated with the Office because it saw the good it was doing for the children and families of Connecticut — like Veronica’s — and how a joint innovation model could spur a more efficient healthcare system.
“I’m seeing more of those kind of deep collaborations in my work, and UnitedHealthcare’s relationship with the Office is emblematic of that shift,” said Dr. Donna L. O’Shea, national medical director, Population Health Management at UnitedHealthcare. “I’ll also say it’s wonderful to live and work in a place where this is happening. We’re passionate about making health care simpler, and we are serious about giving back to the communities where we live and work. We’re all together in this.”