Millage Awardees Profile - Health Net of West Michigan

Health Net of West Michigan is part of the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage Outreach and Navigation Network.

Health Net of West Michigan is a community hub that helps individuals and families bridge gaps between the formal healthcare system and the network of community resources that address social needs. Health Net works alongside clients using an empowerment approach to help them navigate complex systems, provide tools for problem-solving, and advocate to reduce barriers they might be facing. Receiving the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage funding will help Heath Net reach more families who are expecting a baby or have young children.

"This award has the potential to transform how pregnant women and families with young children in Kent County access the healthcare and community resources they deserve to live healthy lives,” said Maureen Kirkwood, MPH, Heath Net Executive Director. “We look forward to working with other early childhood partners to build a truly equitable and accessible system for our whole community."

So how does Health Net work? Here’s one local family’s story.

Josie and Dave welcomed a newborn named Hunter to their family. They were connected to Health Net through Welcome Home Baby, a program that meets with new moms in the hospital and assesses their needs. Through Welcome Home Baby, it was discovered that the family was interested in early childhood services in the community. The visit also identified needs related to utilities and food access.

In addition to the stress of having a newborn, Josie was in treatment for an opioid addiction, which meant Hunter needed additional care and monitoring. Dave had lost his job, so he wasn’t able to contribute to the bills. Health Net helped the family understand and prioritize their needs, which revealed that their most imminent challenge was that their utilities were at risk of being shut off because they owed more than $1,500.

The family didn’t have a support network to reach out to for help with paying their bill. Instead, they had reached out to social service agencies but hadn't received a response yet, and they tried using a payment plan for their utilities but didn't have enough money to make payments. Not having success addressing these issues by themselves, the resource coordination and navigation provided by Health Net became critical.

With the guidance of Health Net social worker Ariel, the family began the process of reaching out to local organizations for help, including completing a medical hardship form that allowed them to better afford their utilities. Health Net helped the family take some simple steps and empowered Josie and Dave to navigate community resources. Josie and Dave addressed their needs at a pace that felt right to them, and they now know what supports are available in the community. That allows them to focus on providing Hunter with the best possible start in life.

The Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage will allow Health Net of West Michigan to significantly increase the number of families reached.