August 17, 2017  

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City of Hattiesburg, School of Social Work Bring Health Insurance to Community

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The Educate, Empower, Enroll (E3) Health Initiative, a partnership between the City of Hattiesburg and The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Social Work, helped insure more than 3,000 Hattiesburg community members. 

The E3 Health Initiative provided Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollment assistance to consumers. Identified coverage barriers include confusing applications and eligibility criteria, lack of information about Medicaid and CHIP, and transportation.

“Health care is a human right,” said Southern Miss staff member Kathryn Rehner. “My goal from the beginning of the program has been to advocate for children and families who are without health coverage because of a confusing and complicated system.”

The E3 Health Initiative hosted more than 300 enrollment sites since July 2014, reaching more than 35,000 people through community events providing information and education about health insurance and health access.

“We have to continue to address the specific barriers that are limiting access to care in our approach to service delivery if we are serious about making Hattiesburg and Mississippi a healthier place to live,” said Rehner.

Rehner noted she helped bring a complicated system directly to eligible children and families. She said each application was hand delivered to the appropriate Regional Medicaid Office to guarantee it was received.

“The process can be so confusing,” said a Hattiesburg resident. “If it hadn't been for E3's assistance, I would have missed out on the opportunity of getting care when I needed it the most."

The City of Hattiesburg facilitated and oversaw the implementation of the project. Mayor Johnny DuPree, city council members and other city leaders assisted with campaign visibility through public service announcements, working booths at festivals and fairs in the community, and attending public meetings to promote enrollment and recertification.

“Working together has provided wonderful opportunities for faculty and students to apply their scholarship in tangible ways that make a difference, and it has enabled the city to provide health insurance opportunities to uninsured residents in this community,” said Dr. Tim Rehner, director of the School of Social Work. “This partnership worked well and resulted in fantastic outcomes for Hattiesburg residents.”

Dr. Laura Richard, assistant professor of social work and principle investigator, said the initiative had far-reaching effects. “Families and children all over the Hattiesburg area have been helped, agencies have been trained in how to assist those needing Medicaid or CHIP, and additional programs have been started and expanded from the model of service that made E3 so successful,” said Richard. 

Due to the success of the E3 Health Initiative, the Southern Miss School of Social Work was awarded more than $1.2 million in Affordable Care Act funding to replicate the project with the addition of Marketplace enrollment assistance.

“The groundbreaking success of the City of Hattiesburg’s E3 Health Initiative continues to transform lives within the Hattiesburg-area and the 24 southernmost counties in Mississippi,” said DuPree. “Thanks to the dedication of the community and strong partnership with the Southern Miss School of Social Work, many children and families not only have health coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, they have a better understanding of the application process.” 

For more information about the School of Social Work in the Southern Miss College of Health, visit www.usm.edu/socialwork.