Press Releases

Monday, April 13, 2020

Highmark West Virginia Launches Online Tool to Meet Critical Needs during COVID-19 Pandemic

Parkersburg, W.Va.  (April 13, 2020) — Due to the increased need for access to social service resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, Highmark West Virginia is implementing an online social care network, Aunt Bertha, which serves as a referral tool for urgent needs. Aunt Bertha connects people to resources that can assist with addressing needs such as food, housing and transportation, and is available to all members and patients served across West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and nationally.

"Due to COVID-19, we recognize that many West Virginians are facing uncertainty and challenging situations," said Jim Fawcett, president of Highmark WV. "We feel Aunt Bertha will be a helpful tool and resource to assist those in need in a very impactful and effective manner."

Highmark had planned to launch Aunt Bertha later this year, but accelerated the process because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent social needs of the community.

As West Virginia's nonprofit community is working extremely hard to address longstanding, current and emerging needs, Highmark WV hopes this tool can support those efforts, and help those who are unfamiliar with, or are having trouble navigating, the system. The Highmark Health enterprise is providing open access to this service to assist in connecting the dots to urgent resources, particularly for those who may have recently lost sources of income due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Aunt Bertha allows users to find nearby community benefit organizations (CBOs)—making it easier for people to access social services in their neighborhoods, for nonprofits to coordinate their efforts, and for healthcare providers to integrate social care into their work. The directory contains geographic-specific information on social service agencies and CBOs across the United States. COVID-19 specific resources also will be listed on the Aunt Bertha site. Once a zip code is entered, online users can filter for specific needs. There are no income restraints or financial cost to use Aunt Bertha. In addition to public accessibility, providers, social workers and care coordinators across the Highmark Health enterprise can access information and recommend services.

Aunt Bertha can be accessed by visiting the Medical and Community Resources page at HighmarkAnswers.com.

The Aunt Bertha initiative is one of many led by Highmark's social determinants of health task force. While SDOH is considered a relatively new term, Highmark has been addressing social needs that are barriers to good health for decades. In the last five years alone, Highmark has committed nearly half a billion dollars in SDOH-related initiatives, including strategic community partnerships, workforce and economic development and access to care. Most recently, Highmark announced $2 million in grants to organizations focused on helping people in need across West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia 

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia serves approximately 325,000 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. With offices in Parkersburg, Charleston and Wheeling, Highmark West Virginia employs more than 700 people and serves as a key economic driver in the state with its total economic impact reaching $262 million.

About Aunt Bertha

Aunt Bertha's mission is to connect all people in need and the programs that serve them with dignity and ease. Beyond its core search functionality, the company delivers enterprise solutions for identifying social needs, targeting interventions, "closing the loop" on social care referrals, and delivering rich reporting. The company serves more than 175 customers across the United States, ranging from healthcare systems, payers, higher education, housing developments, and more. For more information, visit www.auntbertha.com.

For more information, contact:
Cathy McAlister
Highmark Health 304-347-7754
cathy.mcalister@highmarkhealth.org