Stacey Flanagan, Director of the Jersey City Department of Health & Human Services, will be a panelist at the Quality Institute’s Breakfast on Population Health on February 27.
Jersey City is one of three New Jersey communities working with the Healthy Communities create Healthy Citizens (HCHC) initiative, funded by the United Health Foundation and the Quality Institute. One element of that work is Jersey City’s involvement in Aunt Bertha, a social services search and referral platform. Can you tell us how that works in Jersey City?
A little over two years ago, we started talking about the need for a one-stop source for resources in the non-profit world. In the non-profit world there can be a lot of turnover. How do we keep something updated? How can you get a database that is continually updated, web ready, accessible to all and reminds people to keep their information accurate and up-to-date? We were hoping for something that would grow as we grow. We began working with Aunt Bertha, which is designed to help our residents, providers and patient navigators search for social services in regards to food, shelter, health care, job training, financial assistance and more.
Can you describe your experience so far with Aunt Bertha?
We started with a soft launch six months ago with the vanity URL HealthierJCGetStarted.com. Now we are sharing it and asking people, ‘Please claim your listing and make sure all the information is up to date.’ We are reaching out to all kinds of organizations.
How did you encourage non-profit organizations to review their listings?
We went through a list of 800 agencies across the county and called each one and said, ‘Do you still do this? What hours are you open?’ We made post cards with the Quality Institute to remind people to claim their agency. Quality Institute staff members also have been supporting our promotion efforts by providing Aunt Bertha presentations and trainings to social service providers in Hudson County. In March, we will launch our new health & human services department website, which will include a search box link to Aunt Bertha. Then, in April, we will provide monetary incentives to partners that have not only claimed their agency listing but have also signed up on the website to be a partner. In May, we will host our fourth annual Health Trust & Partnership symposium to continue to engage the health organizations across Jersey City to continue to leverage partnerships and promote Aunt Bertha.
How have you now incorporated Aunt Bertha into the regular workflow of the health department?
Through Aunt Bertha, we can see what the community’s needs really are. Are more people looking for affordable housing? Or looking for home health care providers? Then, we can reach out to organizations and say, ‘We want to develop a stronger partnership with you’ to ensure that residents are receiving the services they need. Asking people about their Aunt Bertha listing is the door-opening conversation.
How is Aunt Bertha helping residents of Jersey City?
People are saying, ‘This is really great. Things are faster. One click and I get what I need.’ It’s been a great way for us to reacquaint ourselves with agencies we haven’t talked to in a while. This allows us to follow up and see what people need and what they’re looking for. They are trying to find the local food pantry, or they need help to pay for prescriptions, or affordable housing. We’re getting a more thorough picture of the needs of our community.
What is one thing that you would like to share about your work in population health with the Healthy Communities create Healthy Citizens initiative?
Collaboration is key to improving the lives of Jersey City residents, and we’ve accomplished this through the formation of Healthier Jersey City. If you want to learn more, you will have to attend the Breakfast on February 27th.