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Monday, June 05, 2023

Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health Announces $1.5 Million Grant for Healthy Neighborhood Program

  • Transformational partnership between Vandalia Health Network, Marshall Health, Mountain Health Network, InComm Healthcare, and Dollar General seeks to reduce food insecurity and improve community health

Charleston & Huntington, W.Va. (June 5, 2023) — Today, Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health, of the Highmark Foundation, announced a $1.5 million grant to fund the “Healthy Neighborhood” pilot, an innovative and transformational food insecurity program with collaboration between Vandalia Health Network, Marshall Health, Mountain Health Network, InComm Healthcare, and Dollar General.

According to Feeding America, over 217,000 West Virginia adults and children face food insecurity, and this multi-sector partnership demonstrates how connecting individuals to social care and tackling barriers to health in West Virginia can improve communities’ health and potentially reduce long-term costs of care for taxpayers, employers, and families.  

The initiative plans to address food insecurity and improve health outcomes for eligible West Virginia residents by providing prefunded, restricted-use InComm Health debit cards for exclusive use at Dollar General stores, which provide an affordable assortment of nutritious foods in convenient locations across the state, including produce at select locations. Participants may only use the funds to purchase Dollar General’s “Better for You” food items, which are specially identified on store shelves and highlight healthier product options.

“This program is a unique opportunity to help improve the health of our community by providing nearby access to healthier and more nutritious food to West Virginians, while also addressing the needs of some of the most rural communities facing food insecurity,” shared Jim Fawcett, president of Highmark West Virginia. “The support of the organizations involved in this partnership is tremendous, and we applaud them for positively impacting the health of our communities.”

Vandalia Health Network, Marshall Health, and Mountain Health Network are actively engaged in this pilot project and in their roles as health care providers. In this program, they identify patients who are food-insecure and have one or more chronic conditions and recommend this resource to patients who meet the program’s qualifications.

In the U.S., social determinants of health (SDOH) — where people live, their social support, access to health care, education and healthy food, financial distress, etc. — can impact up to 80% of someone’s health. The investment allows participating organizations to collectively shift emphasis from healthcare to health, understanding root causes that can initially impact an individual’s health.

Healthy Neighborhood pilot program participant Sarah H. is a full-time mom of two children from Alum Creek, W.Va. and says it is very beneficial to have this additional support to provide healthier foods for her family. To hear her story, click here.

“The Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health grant aligns with Highmark Health’s overall goal of reducing food insecurity and improving health outcomes by using food as medicine,” shared Nebeyou Abebe, senior vice president of social determinants of health for Highmark Health. “All of this is ultimately driven by The 80% Project, led by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of West Virginia.”

“Having a healthy neighborhood is so much more than just health care,” said Michelle Coon, president, Vandalia Health Network. “A couple keys to a healthy neighborhood starts with reducing food insecurity and promoting healthier eating habits. This ultimately leads to improved health outcomes and a reduction in the cost of patient care.”

“CAMC has been working to increase health care access in rural areas during the past few years with the purchase of a mobile unit, clinical affiliation agreements and expanding telemedicine,” said Glenn Crotty, Jr., MD, president and CEO, Charleston Area Medical Center, and executive vice president of Vandalia Health. “The healthy neighborhood initiative is another step to assuring access to essential health-related services in the rural communities.”

“The team at Mountain Health Network and our partners at Marshall Health are proud to be part of the Healthy Neighborhood initiative,” said Larry Dial, MD, chief clinical officer for Mountain Health Network and associate professor with the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. “We are grateful to Highmark for its commitment to improving the health of the communities we serve by supporting improved access to healthy food choices for those experiencing food insecurity.”

InComm Healthcare, a division of InComm Payments, a global leader in innovative payments technology, is providing the restricted-use debit card for the pilot free of charge.

“We are very proud our payments solution platform is helping to drive this program and plays an integral part in addressing food insecurity and access to healthier foods,” said Dave Etling, senior vice president and general manager for InComm Healthcare. “These types of product innovations can help members improve their long-term health and better manage chronic conditions by tackling social barriers to health.”

Program Eligibility Information
Individuals are referred by participating healthcare providers to the Healthy Neighborhood program and will be screened for eligibility for the program based on criteria to evaluate need. Physicians at Vandalia Health Network, Marshall Health, and Mountain Health Network are currently screening and identifying patients who are food- insecure. Enrollees will receive a pre-loaded debit card in the mail within seven to 10 days after their acceptance in the program and receive supplemental funding each month while they are enrolled. Participants are initially enrolled for six months but can receive benefits for up to three years. They will also receive individual support, such as assistance finding a primary care doctor and support for chronic health conditions through the participant’s doctor, if applicable. 

About Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia serves approximately 240,000 members through the company’s health care benefits business and hundreds of thousands of additional members through the BlueCard® program. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of West Virginia holds the largest share of the commercial market, and more West Virginians carry a Blue Cross Blue Shield card than any other insurance carrier in the state. Highmark West Virginia employs approximately 600 people and serves as a key economic driver in the state with its total economic impact reaching $352 million.

About Vandalia Health
Vandalia Health Network is a clinically integrated network placing the patient at the center of care. The network, made up of physicians, hospitals, and health systems, strives to deliver the right care at the right time and by the right provider. The network uses technology, shared data, and performance benchmarks to improve quality of care, enhance patient experience and reduce health care costs. The Vandalia Health Network is part of Vandalia Health. Click here for more information.

About Marshall Health
Marshall Health is the clinical enterprise of Marshall University and its Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Marshall Health brings together leading clinicians and researchers to provide world-class care throughout southern West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. With more than 420 providers in 75 areas of primary and specialty care, Marshall Health’s impact extends throughout the region through more than 40 outpatient clinics in 13 counties and telemedicine. To learn more, visit marshallhealth.org.

About Mountain Health Network
Mountain Health Network is a West Virginia-based not-for-profit health delivery system comprised of Cabell Huntington Hospital, a 303-bed teaching hospital for Marshall University Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy and Nursing; St. Mary’s Medical Center, a 393-bed teaching hospital that operates St. Mary’s Schools of Nursing, Respiratory Care and Medical Imaging; Hoops Family Children’s Hospital, a 72-bed pediatric specialty hospital within Cabell Huntington Hospital; HIMG, an 80-member multi-specialty physician group; and Pleasant Valley Hospital, a 101 acute-bed hospital. Mountain Health is committed to improving the health and well-being of over one million children and adults in 38 counties in West Virginia, southern Ohio, and eastern Kentucky through understanding, respecting, and meeting their needs. For more information, visit www.mountainhealthnetwork.org

About InComm Healthcare
InComm Healthcare is the leader in innovative payment platforms and restricted-spend capabilities, serving more than 320 healthcare plans and reaching 8.5 million cardholders. Our proprietary OTC Network currently consists of 66,000+ retailer locations. Our online and mail order options give your members the convenience they expect. Our InComm Healthcare Dual Network Benefit CardTM is revolutionizing supplemental benefits by allowing the flexibility to combine multiple benefits all on one card including OTC products, healthy foods, produce/meal delivery, dental/vision/hearing, and more. Learn more at www.incomm.com/products/healthcare-solutions/.

About Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund
The Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health is a restricted fund of the Highmark Foundation. The Charitable Fund for Health‘s mission is to improve the health, well-being and quality of life for individuals who reside in all 55 counties in West Virginia. The Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health strives to support programs that impact multiple counties and work collaboratively to leverage additional funding to achieve replicable models. For more information, visit www.highmarkfoundation.org.

For more information, contact

Cathy McAlister
Executive Director
Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health
cathy.mcalister@highmarkhealth.org