Care Connect WA: CORE's evaluation of an innovative COVID-19 support program

November 2, 2023

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  • In 2020, the State of Washington launched the Care Connect program to support people needing to isolate and quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure or infection.
  • An evaluation by Providence CORE highlights the program’s speed and reach, as well as opportunities to address additional unmet needs in Washington communities. 

Early in the pandemic, the state of Washington launched the Care Connect program to support people needing to isolate and quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure or infection. This collaboration between the Department of Health, nine regional community hubs, and local care coordinators offered necessities like food and personal care kits to help reduce the impact of COVID-related quarantine. Care coordinators also worked to connect enrollees to other support in the community based on individual needs.

The state partnered with our team at the Center for Outcomes Research and Education (CORE) to evaluate Care Connect, revealing insights about its effectiveness and offering lessons for future iterations of this and other care coordination programs. Our evaluation drew on data from 28,085 individuals enrolled between July 2020 and December 2021. We assessed the program’s ability to reach and enroll its target population, understand what services enrollees requested and received, and its impact on enrollees’ ability to complete their isolation and quarantine period.

Read on for highlights, key findings and takeaways, or download the executive summary, here.

Notable achievements: Speed, reach & diversity

Care Connect was rapidly deployed during a critical period of the pandemic. Within four months of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Washington State, the first regional community hub began enrolling participants, with more hubs joining as the pandemic continued. Key findings include:

  • Care Connect succeeded in enrolling a diverse population, including a substantially higher proportion of black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander individuals than expected based on the demographics of the general population.
  • Overall, time-to-enrollment after referral was fast. Two-thirds of individuals were enrolled the day they were referred into the program, and 90 percent enrolled by the end of the first week.
  • Some groups experienced a slightly longer time to enrollment, including American Indian/Alaskan Native and Hispanic/Latinx individuals, suggesting that more targeted culturally specific outreach may have been necessarily in these communities.
  • Individuals living in neighborhoods with the highest Social Vulnerability Index scores (highest social vulnerability/deprivation) had the lowest proportion of same-day enrollment, suggesting that living in under-resourced areas is a potential driver of disparities in enrollment speed.

Meeting varied needs: No one-size-fits-all solutions

Although the program focused primarily on food and care needs, care coordinators at the community hubs went above and beyond to help connect people to other support. However, not all enrollees received all the support they needed, and this varied between groups. This suggests an opportunity to expand  the program's infrastructure to support other programs that could help meet these additional varied needs. We found that:

  • More than half of enrolled individuals received services in multiple categories such as food and housing support, illustrating the complexity of enrollees’ needs.
  • Housing support was the most frequently received support, reflecting ongoing challenges with housing affordability across the state.
  • The type of support received varied across groups; for example, medical support was a more common need among Hispanic/Latinx individuals, while personal/family support was a more common need among Black/African American individuals.

A bar chart showing the number of individuals who received services in multiple categories. 9545 received service in one category. 7702 in two categories. 5124 in three categories. 892 in four categories. 92 in five categories.

Care Connect contributed to quarantine success

Overall, the program demonstrated success in helping people complete quarantine, with some variation between counties and demographic groups. We found that:

  • Individuals who received food, housing, or medical services were more likely to successfully complete quarantine than those who requested a needed service but did not receive that service.
  • Successful quarantine rates varied by county, potentially indicating Hub- or county-level differences in the available resources to support quarantine.

Data challenges

CORE's evaluation also brought to light several data challenges faced by the program. Different regional hubs utilized various technology platforms, making data collection and monitoring more complex. Shared technology and data practices could streamline these processes in future iterations of the program.

What's next for Care Connect Washington?

Care Connect’s ability to reach diverse populations, address complex needs, and provide vital support to those in quarantine offers hope as the world continues to grapple with COVID-19's impacts while also planning for future pandemics. Building on its successes and learnings, Washington is looking toward a Care Connect 2.0 model that focuses on improving public health overall.

This evolution will require addressing data issues and leveraging CORE's findings from the program's initial phase to reach more people and provide more resources. CORE looks forward to supporting Care Connect's future analytics and evaluation needs as it transitions into this new phase.

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