(Lafayette, LA) – A growing body of research shows that lifestyle has a major effect on a person’s well-being. As a result, hospitals have become revolving doors for patients who are struggling with multiple issues, like homelessness, chronic health conditions or serious mental illnesses.

That’s why the Beacon Project, with funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, is working with some patients to connect them with much-needed resources outside of the hospital. Hospitals screen for patients who have social needs that are complicating their health issues, and the Beacon Project’s Community Care Navigators connect those patients with community sources for food, housing, jobs and more.

According to project director Dr. Holly Howat, issues like access to fresh food, safe housing, exercise and a support system are just as important as quality of care.

“If one or more social determinants is missing or if a person’s lifestyle is negative overall, his or her health is more likely to suffer,” says Howat.

Patients Rely on the Beacon Project for Support

Kabrina Small, who leads case management with the Beacon Project, says that a support system is the most important service the project provides. “Our Community Care Navigators call patients on a weekly or biweekly basis. It’s something that’s a constant in their lives. Social interaction and the relationship they build with their Community Care Navigator is helpful to them.”

Mr. G, a homeless patient with a history of health problems, is an example of how this approach can succeed. He signed on with Beacon after a hospital stay, and began working with his Community Care Navigator, Dylan. Dylan used community care partners to help Mr. G find a job and a permanent place to live. Since beginning work, Mr. G has even bought a truck.

Dr. Howat believes that is what sets the Beacon Project apart. “Weekly calls begin to build trust,” she says. “The program is unique because it meets unique needs that may not be apparent at first.”

A Helping Hand from 232-HELP, ViaLink and Other Partners

Lafayette-based 232-HELP rolled out the Beacon Project and is the leading agency in Acadiana for guidance and referrals to services, with a network of more than 2,000 agencies and organizations in its curated and updated resource database. Community care partners for the Beacon Project include:

  • Catholic Services of Acadiana
  • Volunteers of America
  • FoodNet Food Bank of Lafayette
  • Acadiana Area Human Services District
  • Volunteer Instructors Teaching Adults

Other essential partners include ViaLInk of Greater New Orleans, which provides support and referral services. The Justice and Health Collaborative (JHC) is assisting the Beacon Project to build the community’s capacity to help treat and support those with mental illnesses, to lower their risk of being imprisoned.

The Beacon Project’s connection with local healthcare systems helps those hospitals return to a focus on medical care. Patients who may previously have made multiple trips to the same hospital or healthcare system will instead get appropriate care through community social supports and services. The Beacon Project can replace repeated, costly hospital visits from patients who used to have no other choices of where to go for care. Because of that, hospitals will also see savings they can then reinvest in even more care navigation and community support.

Grant Award Helps Keep the Beacon Project Going

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation awarded a Special Project Grant to the Beacon Project to launch its pilot program.

“As our work increasingly includes addressing the social determinants of health, organizations like 232-HELP and the Beacon Project are going to play and increasingly important role in improving health for all Louisianians,” says Michael Tipton, Blue Cross Foundation president.

Rae Logan, Executive Director Emeritus and Director of Community Outreach at 232-HELP says, “Blue Cross was to step in to fund this project. They recognized that real needs underlie the social determinants of health. And that addressing those needs improves the overall health and well-being of the person and the community.”

About 232-HELP

232-HELP is a single-destination agency that provides information, education and referral services, with guidance and direct services rendered as required. 232- HELP/211 exists to help those in crisis return to being healthy and productive members of the community and to empower and strengthen individuals and families by connecting those in need with community and social services.

About the Blue Cross Foundation

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation works each day to improve the health and lives of Louisianans by empowering everyday people to do extraordinary good. By building and funding coalitions of friends, families and neighbors, the Foundation hopes to build a healthier Louisiana, particularly for its children. The foundation is funded solely by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana but is a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity. Together Blue Cross and the Blue Cross Foundation invest $3 million each year into Louisiana’s communities and nonprofits

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