Unite Us partnering with CVS Health to expand social service network

Unite Us, a tech company that creates networks between local organizations on a national scale, has partnered with CVS Health in Kentucky to expand its network statewide to increase access and provide a smoother referral process to organizations providing critical care involving housing, food, clothing and household goods, legal services, mental health and other services.

Unite Us hopes to expand statewide by the end of 2021, said Jiji El Masri, community engagement manager for Unite Us. Unite Us has a presence in 40 states, and Kentucky is one of them.

The Unite Us United Community Network launched in April 2019, El Masri said. In Kentucky the network began in Jefferson County, some parts of southern Indiana and Oldham, Shelby and Bullet counties in Kentucky, but it’s continuing to expand. Boyle County community organizations that provide critical care can visit uniteus.com, hit the “contact” button, and Unite Us will follow up with the organization so they can potentially become part of the network. El Masri said Unite Us wants to hear from local organizations that provide critical services to talk about how the network can benefit them and their clients.

“What this network is intended to do is to give organizations a more efficient and a seamless referral process that’s going to allow them to have visibility into their entire client journey as they navigate that system of social service delivery,” El Masri said.

Community organizations that are part of the network are able to more easily refer clients to other community organizations that can address their clients’ additional needs.

“We already know clients do not often show up with one need,” El Masri said. “Many of the needs are co-occurring, and they happen together.”

So Unite Us focuses on providing wraparound services, serving as a “warm handoff from one organization to the next,” she said.

She said community organizations are experts in their fields, so what Unite Us does is serve as a coordinated network of care that brings organizations together on a shared tech platform and allows them to send and receive closed loop electronic referrals. One benefit of this is organizations can send referrals and track them to their outcome so they can see if clients’ needs are being addressed and they are being connected to additional organizations.

“One of the beautiful things about this network is it’s really lifting up a key burden from the client themselves,” El Masri said. “In the older, traditional referral method, the burden is usually on the client to go from one organization to the next — you know, you give them a piece of paper or a phone number and they have to be the ones to navigate that, to arrange, to schedule, to seek out those services. With Unite Us, instead, what we’re doing is lifting that burden off the client. They only have to tell their story one time to one organization, and that story is going to follow them throughout their journey, and it’s going to enable all of these other folks at other organizations to wrap around to really provide very informed care and support.”

Unite Us also seeks to identify and address gaps and inequity and help community organizations find out where investments need to go.

El Masri said when the network first launched, it took about nine days for referrals to be accepted through the platform, and since then the average number of days has decreased significantly — it now takes an average of about 0.7 days, so the process has become more efficient, and that’s something El Masri said the system wants to continually to work on.

El Masri said the network is useful for data collection and also is particularly useful during the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been increased demand for services in areas like housing, food and employment assistance, making it more important to connect people with services quickly.

“One of the things that the COVID pandemic has done is exposed the inequities that we already knew existed in our system,” she said. “It has pushed more organizations and governments to want to find solutions to improve that health equity and reduce disparities in the community, and now more than ever we need this collaborative and impactful infrastructure in our community. COVID has impacted people’s medical and social wellbeing in so many different ways, and truly, again, exposed the need for a system that works effectively at meeting clients’ needs.”

The pandemic has also changed the way service providers deliver services, often shifting to a virtual format, and also has in some cases forced them to operate with fewer resources, so El Masri said, “Having access to a web-based platform such as Unite Us is really going to enable them to leverage that and work wherever they are to be able to connect clients quickly to the services they need.”

Visit uniteus.com to learn more or reach out about joining the network.