Health Connect offers Lifeline

Gloria Martin is no stranger to the emergency room.

At five-years-old, her son Silas was diagnosed with brain cancer. Martin spent the next nine years of his life in and out of hospitals and emergency rooms, until he passed away at 16-years-old in 2014.

Since then, Gloria has found herself in and out of hospitals and emergency rooms, this time for herself. In December of 2019, when Gloria was in the emergency room, she was visited by Jennifer Reynolds, Catholic Charities Health Connect Community Health Worker.

Health Connect is a health advocacy program of Catholic Charities Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and St. Mary's Hospital in Decatur designed to help patients meet their health needs and give them access to community resources. A Community Health Worker helps patients navigate the health care world and community resources at no cost to the patient.

Gloria recalls sitting on the exam table when Jennifer stopped in the room and asked if she could talk to her about Health Connect. "I immediately perked up when I heard it would help with rides to medical appointments," said Gloria, who said she spent a staggering $200 each month on Uber prior to enrolling in Health Connect.

Gloria, who had to file bankruptcy in October 2019 due to medical bills, lives on her retirement income and part-time wage working at a local church. She spends nearly her entire monthly income paying for health insurance. She said she has visited the emergency room for multiple health problems, including hypertensive emergencies, bulging discs, blockage in her renal arteries, low sodium levels, a concussion and back pain.

The help Health Connect has given her has extended to every area of her life. It has given her rides, connected her with local food pantries, helped with utilities, and helped her get financial assistance for a lifesaving inhaler that was costing $400 monthly.

"It's given me a 'don't give up attitude'. It's given me hope that I didn't have before. This truly is a connection to other resources. This is a connection to finding the answers. There is such value and support in the relationship I have with Jennifer and Julie (the caseworkers). There's such benefit in that," says Martin.