ARLINGTON, Texas — Social isolation in seniors caused by transportation challenges, the loss of a spouse, or geographic barriers to other family members can affect their physical and mental health. With that in mind, Kaufman County organizations created The Connections Project to combat isolation through healthy, enjoyable activities.
A $300,000 grant, awarded by Texas Health Community Impact, will help Senior Connect and other local agencies identify isolated seniors who suffer from depression and food insecurity, connecting them to mental health services and community resources.
“Our organization’s mission is to improve the quality of life for older adults through advocacy, community partnership and nutrition outreach to sustain an independent, healthy life-experience,” said Melinda Polk, executive director of Senior Connect. “Through the Connections Project we have the opportunity to collaborate with additional partners to expand our services and outreach.”
Texas Health Community Impact is a data-driven, outcomes-focused approach that calls on grant recipients to collaborate across multiple sectors to attack identified issues. This year, the program is awarding a total of $5.2 million to 12 programs across five regions in North Texas.
“This is one of our opportunities to play a role in upstream issues that impact health and well-being,” said Catherine Oliveros, DrPH, Texas Health’s vice president of Community Health Improvement. “Siloed efforts have limited success. If we are really going to transform health and health care, we must transform systems and communities.”
Texas Health Community Impact pinpoints specific ZIP codes with the greatest opportunity to effect change. In Kaufman County, the program will focus on providing resources to individuals in 75161 and 75143.
“Community Impact is part of Texas Health’s commitment to live our nonprofit, faith-based health system’s mission: To improve the health of the people in the communities we serve,” said the system’s CEO, Barclay Berdan. “It’s said that a person’s ZIP code has a greater impact on their health than their genetic code. That’s why we’re reaching out into the communities we serve and hoping to make a real difference in the health and well-being of people in these areas of North Texas.”
Leadership Councils found that mental health issues came up again and again during community focus groups and needs assessments.
They layered in data from community readiness surveys and performed windshield assessments, visiting the areas where individuals lacked access to healthy food and were isolated, which led to depression and physical problems. Living in food deserts (areas that lack healthy food options) can lead to chronic ailments, such as diabetes and heart disease, that damage the well-being of individuals and entire neighborhoods.
"This grant provides a great opportunity to improve the health and well-being of our community as identified within these studies," said Andrea Pickens, Southern Leadership Council chair and representative for Kaufman County. "Through the Connections Project and its mission, our citizens will benefit from the coordination and collaboration of various local agencies focused on positively affecting both the physical and mental health of our seniors."
In addition to Senior Connect, the Connections Program is partnering with:
- Carevide in Kaufman
- Star Transit
- Faith Communities (Oak Grove Baptist Church in Elmo, River of Life Church in Kemp, First Baptist Church of Kaufman)
- Community Services (City of Kemp, Kemp Community Servants, The Center, Sharing Community Resources Coalition of Kaufman County)
- Kaufman Independent School District
- University of North Texas – College of Health and Public Service
- TVCC Nursing School
- Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Kaufman
- Jina Lewallen, Ph.D., M.A., LCSW, and Texas Family Support
Programs through these partners will include the development of community gardens, a pen-pal program with local junior high students, meal services, medical screenings, mental health resources, and increased access to health care providers and caregivers through the GrandCare Systems Portal.
“For more than 40 years, Senior Connect has provided hot meals to seniors throughout Kaufman County,” Polk said. “With this grant, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with these additional agencies and offer more resources to our senior population.”
About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is a faith-based, nonprofit health system that cares for more patients in North Texas than any other provider. With a service area that consists of 16 counties and more than 7 million people, the system is committed to providing quality, coordinated care through its Texas Health Physicians Group and 29 hospital locations under the banners of Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Texas Health Harris Methodist and Texas Health Huguley. Texas Health access points and services, ranging from acute-care hospitals and trauma centers to outpatient facilities and home health and preventive services, provide the full continuum of care for all stages of life. The system has more than 4,100 licensed hospital beds, 6,400 physicians with active staff privileges and more than 26,000 employees. For more information about Texas Health, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit www.TexasHealth.org.