One of the biggest negative impacts to an individual’s wellbeing is the lack of access to insurance and consistent healthcare. Stafford’s Department of Social Services is continuing to work with the Stafford Hospital Community Benefit Fund via a grant to match eligible families and children with insurance and healthcare. The department was awarded $10,000 from the Benefit Fund for the next six months to help underwrite the salary of a worker to administer Stafford’s Health Insurance Enrollment Program or SHINE. This is the seventh year in a row Stafford has competed and been awarded funds. Stafford County has exceeded state goals for enrollment of qualified individuals every year.
“It can be difficult to navigate Medicaid eligibility. This grant allows me to guide folks who are often in a difficult situation through the application process,” said Heather Trascapoulos, Stafford Social Services Benefits Program Specialist and SHINE Program Administrator. “Nothing is better than seeing the relief on someone’s face when they know there is hope, and I want people to know, there is always hope.”
The purpose of the SHINE program is to enhance the department’s ability to provide eligible Stafford families and children with access to state-sponsored health insurance programs such as Medicaid and Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS). The funding enables Stafford DSS to hire a part-time 20-hour-a-week benefit programs specialist worker. Typically, the grant is $20,000 and covers a 12-month period, but the Benefit Fund is converting its grant program to calendar year from fiscal year and is providing six-month grants until January 2019.
This worker devotes extensive one-on-one assistance and follow-up with prospective applicants in compliance with the Virginia Department of Social Service’s state and federal regulations. The SHINE worker also works closely with Stafford Public School personnel and the Stafford Health Department to accept referrals on behalf of potential applicants. State goals call for a minimum of the enrollment of 350 families. Stafford Social Services assisted more than 750 families with applications last year and enrolled more than 350.
“The SHINE Program is pivotal in meeting the healthcare needs of the most vulnerable members of our community. As health care professionals, it is very difficult to see patients come to our emergency rooms suffering from health issues that regular checkups and access to insurance could have prevented,” said Cathy Yablonski, Stafford Hospital Administrator. “Providing these grants to great community partners like Stafford Social Services is one way we can help alleviate this.”
Indeed, Heather Trascapoulos included a story of a family in her grant application this year that recounted the family’s struggle trying to provide services to their suicidal 13-year-old daughter. The daughter had returned home after a stay in a mental hospital and the mother was worried about keeping her safe. The family did not have health insurance and was over the income limit for Medicaid. Trascapoulos was able to counsel them on the concept of “spenddown” which causes Medicaid to kick in after a certain amount of money, based on income, is spent. This family’s ability to treat their child was directly a result of the SHINE position.
For more information about the SHINE program or other medical assistance programs, please visit the Social Services page of www.staffordcountyva.gov or call (540) 658-8720.