Obstacles that can hinder students’ academic achievements include poverty, transportation access, economic instability, attendance hurdles, food scarcity and affordable housing. And rural children face additional challenges due to a limited number of support organizations. To overcome systemic issues and address the social determinants of health (SDoH) — non-medical factors that influence health outcomes — community health workers (CHW) are placed in rural schools to help students and families gain access to the support they need. “The ultimate goal is allowing kids to be able to focus on school. I don’t want them to wonder why their clothes are too tight or why their stomach’s growling and they can’t focus on the math problem,” said Jacob Williamson, CHW for Coffeyville School District. “Being that resource at the school, those kids know they can come to me and say, ‘We don’t have food at home — what can we do?’ or ‘I don’t have clothes; I don’t have a bed to sleep in — what can I do?’” KUMC sought a system that would help track existing notes, interconnect referrals across an extensive network of partners, aid in school transitions, monitor parent-organization communications and provide valuable, quantitative insight for an enhanced educational experience throughout a child’s K-12 journey in the Coffeyville School District in southeast Kansas.
Community CareLink (CCL) was brought in through a grant to create a system that would document SDoH, track student progress and identify systematic gaps between CHWs, referring community organizations, medical providers and school leaders. KUMC was confident the system would help close gaps by allowing CHWs to build accurate pictures of what students need to succeed, and offer easy ways to refer students and their families to external resources. Before working with CCL, KUMC tracked everything in shared online documents and by hand. CCL provided proactive training, including one-on-one sessions and video tutorials, to offer a personalized learning approach. “We asked ourselves, ‘How do we create a dynamic system that is better responsive to every child’s needs, where every child has exactly what they need to be successful in school and in life?’ That’s all we’re doing here,” KUMC Program Manager Robert Stiles comments. “Community CareLink is as central to that as the community health workers, partly because it makes their job easier.”
"The platform makes communication and coordination better among all the organizations in our community."
-Robert Stiles, KUMC Program Manager
Because KUMC partners with a variety of organizations, the singular database needed to seamlessly communicate between all partners to share student records, track referrals and monitor progress. Prior to the partnership, KUMC would get frequent phone calls from teachers checking in on children, which took time and resources away from other important tasks. The new system streamlines the communication process, allowing referrals to be made by anyone in the community. It also allows KUMC to monitor how effective their processes are. “If I’ve made 10 phone calls and they haven’t picked up, I can see that and know that maybe phone calls are not the best option and I need to rework what I’m doing,” said Willamson. “I work with middle and high school students, so next year Jacob will transition one of his families from elementary to middle school,” shares Kelsea Watkins, CHW for Coffeyville School District. “Then I’ll be able to see how he worked with them and pick up on that student’s progress from the system. That’s going to be really helpful.”
"CHWs are not the goal, they are how we get to the goal. They’re the person that does the work. the goal is to create an environment where every kid has the exact same opportunity. And Community CareLink is the method to get us there."
-Robert Stiles, KUMC Program Manager
The CCL system improves communication between students, schools and community partners, creating an organized and easily accessible way of tracking SDoH and student growth. The new system also positively impacts low-income and rural school districts by securing funding by showing program outcomes and positive community impacts. As the platform expands, increased funding and data production will further empower students and enhance their learning experiences. “CHWs are not the goal, they are how we get to the goal. They’re the person that does the work. But the goal is to create an environment where every kid has the exact same opportunity. And Community CareLink is the method to get us there,” shares Stiles. Learn more about how CCL’s technological capabilities transformed the educational landscape by helping to secure funding, produce data, coordinate referrals and support students on their path towards a brighter, more empowered future by contacting CCL today.
To follow KUMC’s growth and continue learning how Community CareLink is supporting their mission, follow us on LinkedIn as we share their progress throughout 2023.