Texas Health Resources’ Healthy Education and Lifestyles Program (HELP) will be expanding to nine locations over the North Texas area by the end of October. The program provides resources and education for those that lack healthcare support and assists uninsured patients by managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, high cholesterol, and hypertension.
The HELP program first launched at Texas Health Azle in 2012, with a mission to make high-quality healthcare more accessible to North Texans. Each month, patients are seen in groups of four, providing a support system for people living with chronic diseases. The program costs $10 a month and includes an individual appointment with a nurse practitioner and lab visit, a support group, and an education session covering topics related to managing chronic diseases.
Another objective of the program is to lower the number of trips to the Emergency Department a patient with chronic disease is forced to make, especially since visits can be expensive. The education sessions provide patients with information about how to better manage conditions to prevent emergencies. Patients receive support on various aspects of living with a chronic disease, whether it be finding the cheapest options for prescriptions, getting access to healthy foods, needing transportation, or beginning to look for a job.
“Any of those other issues that we don’t think about that impact the social determinants of health, are things that we work on as well,” says Jamie Judd, program director of Community Health Improvement. “If we only work on their chronic disease, they’re not going to be able to sustain that because there are so many barriers to them being able to do the things they need to do to manage that disease.”
According to outcome data from Arlington-based Texas Health, the program has been successful in helping patients manage chronic diseases in Azle: There has been an 80 percent decrease in Emergency Department visits after a patient enters the program, while HELP has created an overall cost savings of approximately $324,000 a year.
Although the success of the HELP program in Azle spearheaded the decision to expand to additional locations, renewal changes in the Medicaid 1115 Waiver Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program, which established the initial program, officially allowed HELP to be expanded to facilities across the area that have access to the Medicaid Waiver fund.
Texas Health says the new programs, which are opening at Texas Health Alliance, Texas Health Cleburne, Texas Health Fort Worth, Texas Health HEB, Texas Health Huguley, Texas Health Kaufman, Texas Health Stephenville, and Texas Health Southwest, are committed to serving the rising number of uninsured people dealing with chronic disease in these communities.
“For us, it’s really to be able to care for more of these individuals, and provide them with better, more consistent care, which in turn develops a better quality of life for them,” says Judd.