Reading Hospital Be Well Berks Grant Recipients Share Midterm Progress
Reading Hospital's Be Well Berks grant recipients are halfway through the first cycle of the grant program. In July 2018, Reading Hospital funded and awarded $200,000 in grants to five local organizations whose long-term program goals address the key priorities outlined in the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment: Obesity, Access to Care, Addiction, and Mental Health. Be Well Berks' mission is to improve the health and wellness of Berks County residents through thoughtful leadership, partnerships, and community investment. The programs have all made great progress in the first six months:
- Antietam Fit is a program designed to use Polar GoFit technology to encourage high school students in the Antietam School District to become more active. Approximately 500 students are using the device and have been taught how to wear, read, and understand how the technology works, as well as the importance of an active lifestyle. Each student also creates a profile on the Polar GoFit website to review data and track their progress throughout the year. The students have offered a very enthusiastic response to the integration of the heart rate monitors during physical education classes with students requesting to increase usage of the monitors from three times per week as planned to daily.
- Berks Counseling Center's Whole Health Action Management (WHAM) is working to close the gaps in the delivery of physical health and wellness programs for those with severe mental illness by engaging and training certified peer specialists. In October 2018, the first WHAM training session was held for seven Berks County organizations. Since the training's completion, most of the agencies who participated are now in the process of implementing WHAM in their respective organizations. Berks Counseling Center has also utilized grant funding to offer two full days of Mental Health First Aid training sessions to the public. The first session was held on Friday, February 1, at Reading Hospital. Sixteen community members participated in the session and were engaged while learning how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. A second session will be held in April.
- Centro Hispano has used their funding to enhance a Medical Interpreting Program, which is improving access to healthcare services and improving cultural competencies for the Spanish speaking population of Berks County. To date, the program has assisted more than 130 unique patients at Reading Hospital's Children's Health Center. Patients have shared that they are more comfortable asking questions and are more confident managing their children's health and wellness.
- MidPenn Legal Services has implemented the Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) Program with Reading Hospital. Molly I. Sanders, Esquire, has assumed the position of Managing Attorney for the MLP Program in November 2018. The partnership provides comprehensive, high-quality legal services for low-income patients referred by Reading Hospital staff and providers. Since December 1, 2018, Attorney Sanders has assisted over 35 patients address a variety of legal problems, such as housing, utilities, and social security benefit issues.
- New Journey Community Outreach has supplemented their efforts to provide healthy lunches served through the Soup Kitchen and food product distribution through the Food Pantry by distributing nutritious, easy-to-make recipes and nutrition education materials each month through the Fighting Poverty. Feeding Hope. Project. Nearly 400 delicious, healthy recipes have been distributed since July 1, 2018. Once a month, nutritious food tastings and discussions on healthy food choices are offered in partnership with The Food Trust. In addition, since November 1, 2018, 35 clients have registered to participate in weight and blood pressure monitoring two times per month. Clients with high or borderline-high blood pressure are then encouraged to follow-up with their primary care provider or through the Tower Health Medical Group Street Medicine program.
"The Be Well Berks Grant Program reflects Reading Hospital's ongoing commitment to community wellness," said Desha Dickson, Associate Vice President, Community Wellness, Reading Hospital. "The aim is to fund and bring together community-based, nonprofit organizations in Berks County to collaborate on healthcare and human services and to develop approaches that make our community a healthier place to live."