FaithHealthNC Initiative to Expand into Western North Carolina

January 6, 2014

A grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem will help Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center expand an innovative faith-based program into 11 North Carolina counties.

The grant, worth $477,499, will be used to expand FaithHealthNC into Alleghany, Ashe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Davidson, Forsyth, McDowell, Rockingham, Surry and Wilkes counties. FaithHealthNC is an initiative that connects faith congregations with care providers to help people navigate their journeys through the health care system.

The funds will be used to help identify and train community members—such as hospital chaplains and denominational, social service and public health leaders—who will help implement the FaithHealth program in their counties. Individuals who receive training will then assist the counties in connecting faith-based organizations, community resources and local health care providers. The goal is to improve the health of people in their communities.

“While the concept of our FaithHealth program is compelling, the actual construction of the needed community networks requires art, skill and highly localized help to ensure they succeed,” said Gary Gunderson, M.Div., D.Min., D.Div., vice president of faith and health ministries for Wake Forest Baptist.

“Local groups and institutions will need on-the-ground assistance from faith-health specialists who are trained, knowledgeable and available for an extended period of time. We are very grateful for this funding, which will help pay for those costs and help get this program moving in our region.”

FaithHealthNC was launched in 2013 to improve health by forging covenants between faith communities and health care providers, such as Wake Forest Baptist. Once a covenant is in place, the Medical Center will provide health care liaisons to help clergy and faith community volunteers work to ensure that member needs are met during times of illness.

While working in Memphis, Tenn., Gunderson built a similar model of large-scale congregational partnerships that connected the providers of health and social services with the hundreds of religious congregations that are often the first points of contact for an individual in distress. FaithHealthNC is adapting this “Memphis model” to smaller towns and rural areas of North Carolina.

The initiative focuses on four groups of highly vulnerable individuals: isolated elders, individuals living with early onset chronic conditions, women and their children, and those living with unattended mental and behavioral health conditions.

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was established in 1947 and is now one of the largest private trusts in North Carolina. Its mission is to improve the quality of life and quality of health for the financially needy of North Carolina. The Health Care Division promotes wellness statewide by investing in prevention and treatment. The Poor and Needy Division responds to basic life needs and invests in solutions that improve quality of life and health for financially needy residents of Forsyth County. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., serves as sole trustee.

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