Ensuring Access to Essential Care

Task Force Unites Community to Break Down Barriers

MedStar Harbor Hospital is fully committed to meeting the healthcare needs of its community. But knowing exactly what those needs are, and putting the right programs and services in place to meet them, can require a bit of research.

That’s the focus of the MedStar Harbor Hospital Community Health Needs Assessment Task Force, which brings hospital leaders and physicians together with representatives from the Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore City government, and other local non-profits, for open discussion and dialogue about healthcare resources that exist, or don’t but need to, in our community. Along with these discussions, the task force collects insight from the public through surveys and community input sessions.

“MedStar Harbor is one of the anchor institutions in the city for healthcare services,” says Ryan Moran, who serves as the hospital’s director of Community Health. “It’s important that we assess what people are experiencing in a way that directly involves them and then respond to fill those gaps.”

Most recently, the task force identified an increasing need for behavioral health and chronic disease management services in the communities that surround MedStar Harbor. Moran says that the hospital is putting new programs and resources in place in response to this. One of the most significant investments has been the development and launch of a Peer Recovery Coach Program. This program is designed to provide support, guidance, and a path to recovery for individuals with substance abuse or addiction issues.

Jerry Gross is one of three peer recovery coaches the hospital now employs through grant funding from the Baltimore Population Health Workforce Collaborative. If and when a patient screens positive for substance use in the Emergency department, Gross’ job is to engage that person in a supportive, no-judgement conversation. He attempts to first gain their trust by explaining that earlier in his life, he was in their shoes.

“Fifteen years ago, I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and I lost everything because of it,” Gross explains. “I got help and turned my life around. And now I am so fortunate that I get to help others. Being able to make that first connection with someone is so important. That’s what I needed a long time ago. And that’s what I am giving now.”

Moran says that MedStar Harbor offers a number of health education programs and classes to give people additional resources to help them prevent and manage chronic diseases and pursue healthier lifestyles.

“By creating better access to care, we can play a significant role in helping people get well and stay well,” said Moran. “That is what the Community Health Needs Assessment Task Force is really setting out to accomplish.”

In addition to the Emergency department, peer recovery coaches provide services in the inpatient behavioral health and mother and infant services units.