Providence is steadfast in serving our Mission, to care for all, especially the poor and vulnerable. Health insurance has been a prevalent health need that our communities meet year after year. At Providence, we understand enrolling in health insurance can be a daunting task—a confusing world filled with income calculations, insurance premiums, HMO networks and piles of paperwork. It’s even more difficult if English is not your first language. Our Community Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides a team of bilingual (English/Spanish) community health workers who advise consumers on public programs they are eligible for and help them enroll in a suitable health plan.
Launched initially in 2009 to serve children, CHIP’s impact on the community has steadily grown year after year. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, CHIP expanded its service to include adults. In 2016, CHIP staff were certified to also enroll eligible clients into CalFresh, providing a one-stop shop for clients that needed assistance with both health insurance and supplemental nutrition assistance.
From 2019 to 2020, CHIP assisted 686 individuals secure food and 1,201 individuals secure medical health insurance.
2020 verified why public benefit and assistant programs are needed. CHIP is a program that is extremely essential in a time where job loss, money instability and insurance were at the top of many families’ lists of worries. CHIP adjusted protocols for COVID safety and ensured those who were most affected by the pandemic were getting help they needed. CHIP’s biggest battle this past year was to combat the stigma around public benefit and assistant programs, hoping to make it known that it is OK to get help, and it is meant to help our neighbors get back on their feet.
“CHIP partners with local schools, churches, health clinics and other community organizations to provide assistance at convenient sites all throughout the South Bay and the San Fernando Valley, while focusing attention on our most vulnerable neighborhoods,” said Maria Concha Dueñas, community health supervisor at Providence. “Our community health workers meet with clients in person or over the phone to provide individualized assessments of a client’s eligibility, guide them in navigating the complex application process, and follow-up to assist in troubleshooting or advocating for clients who are improperly denied coverage. The team comes from the local community and many have a similar life experience, which means they provide compassionate care for the clients they serve.”
In 2018, local church member Patricia Celis found herself needing assistance and sought help through CHIP. After getting back on her feet, she felt a calling to give back and became a volunteer for the senior program the following year. The impact of CHIP allowed her to find stability in her life and give back her time to those who are in a position that she once was. After a year of volunteering with the senior program, she was hired in January 2020 as a community health worker with the CHIP team.
“This compassion (from the Providence members) was contagious, and it brought out the best of me. And now the greatest thanks is my time and my effort to help as much as I can to do for others what the Providence team once did for me,” said Celis. “Providence was like a true angel to me during a very difficult time in my life. Few people possess the consideration, compassion, and loving heart that these team members have.”
Providence’s Mission rings true with this program and team – serving the poor and vulnerable, humanizing health care and insurance and making sure people have options to ease their way.