Brandi Demel, R.N., has been setting the stage for the rollout of a new program that will help local and area residents find the resources they need for a healthier life.
As the full-time registered nurse at Sunflower Diversified Services (SDS), Demel is now ready to assist anyone who qualifies for the program, which is called SDS Health Outreach.
The program is based on a new project sponsored by the state of Kansas and its managed care organizations (MCOs). These are the insurance companies involved in the KanCare system for low-income residents.
The state’s project is called Health Home, which is not to be confused with home-health services that have been available through some agencies for many years. SDS’s Health Outreach is based out of its current facilities.
During the first six months, Health Outreach will concentrate on people with chronic mental illness, which could include anything from depression to schizophrenia.
“It offers a central point for monitoring health care – both mental and physical,” Demel said. “It will help us fill in the health-care gaps to ensure the person gets to the right doctor or specialist.
“The ultimate goal,” she added, “is to improve health literacy and overall mental and physical health. This is an opportunity to make a positive impact on local and area residents, including some people SDS currently serves.”
SDS is a non-profit agency that has served central Kansans with developmental disabilities and delays for nearly 50 years.
“Some SDS clients may qualify for Health Outreach but it is for anyone in the community who qualifies under KanCare requirements,” Demel explained. “Once a person enters the program, we will identify what is needed for a healthier life.
“It could be finding a primary care doctor or finding more suitable housing,” she continued. “We consider the whole person - not just mental-health issues but also the repercussions of those issues.”
The local Health Outreach team includes not only Demel as a full-time nurse but also a licensed practical nurse and several case managers. Medical staff will be added as the need grows.
“We have a solid, experienced team for the very issues that this state initiative addresses,” Demel commented. “We are experts in finding resources for particular needs and have a long history of collaborating with other organizations.”
A person can join the program after a referral from one of the insurance companies involved. These are Amerigroup, Sunflower State Health Plan and UnitedHealthcare.
Those who think they may qualify but haven’t received a referral letter in the mail can contact Demel by calling 620-792-1321.
“I can help with referrals,” she said. “Once they have qualified, there will be open communications about their health, along with suggestions about ways to prevent problems through screenings and wellness checks.”
In six months, the program will also be available to those with diabetes and asthma. Demel said these two diseases were chosen because they are the cause of the most insurance claims and are associated with the highest risks. Other conditions will be added later.
Jim Johnson, SDS executive director, said the staff is excited to introduce Health Outreach to its service area, which includes Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.
“Health Outreach is consistent with our desire to meet the needs of the community,” Johnson said. “We always want to find new ways to improve a person’s ability to enjoy a more independent lifestyle.”