Tulsa Health Department
The Power of Partnership and Hope

Mar 31, 2023

For this Story of Impact, we had the opportunity to connect with Gabrielle Vickers, Community Engagement Supervisor, and Genesis Terrazas, Community Engagement Specialist, with the Tulsa Health Department. They shared candidly and joyfully about the impact of decreasing challenges Tulsa’s children and families face becoming aware of and enrolling in available resources. Thank you for sharing the innovative community-driven impact of Tulsa’s Health Department – Community Engagement work towards crafting a pathway of lifelong success for children and families of Tulsa.

As you can imagine, the last few years have required service-based organizations to redefine how they systematically support community needs and seize timely opportunities, such as Oklahoma Medicaid expansion. In addition, the pandemic magnified the disparity between children and families of Tulsa and access to critical healthcare services. In response to the various challenges, Tulsa’s Health Department redesigned its approach and built out the Community Engagement team. As a result of this change, Tulsa has seen a decrease in the number of children and families without access to proper health care.

Through an intentional, collaborative process,* families can now navigate the web of services with partnership, dignity and hope. To achieve this, the Tulsa Health Department prioritized understanding the community’s needs while continuing to amplify the importance of empathy and eliminating barriers to support client advocacy and engagement. This navigation process consists of a centralized location for supports such as warm handoffs between partnered organizations, case management support, language assistance/resources, trusted messengers, helplines, wrap-around care and so much more.

Although we cannot yet fully understand the impact of the pandemic, we can understand the impact on historically underserved populations across generations. The Community Engagement Specialist team serves as a conductor of change and a beacon of hope.

Genesis walks us through two cases where despite the difference in specific needs, both found support through their circumstances.

Case 1: A young Venezuelan mother needed insurance coverage, access to food security and citizenship support. As a mom with young children and newer to the county, she faced many obstacles. However, with the integration of linguistic supports and a centralized location to handle her needs, she could find comfort in knowing that she and her children would have what they needed. In addition, she gained access to Soonercare, WIC, citizenship application support, various accessible food sources and a primary care team through free health clinics.

Case 2: A woman with multiple medical disabilities who was in need of various supports. As a result of the navigation system, she connected with the helpline, talked through support options, gained access to necessary medicines she was rationing out and started a new pathway to long-term care. As she recalls this story, she pauses and reflects on the weight of the challenges this woman and her husband faced.

Through both cases, Genesis encourages people to imagine this weight and impact coupled with having young children who either need services or witness such challenges. As painful as that reality is, the tangible nature of Tulsa’s Health Department navigation system provides just a bit of relief for those families.

Shifting that burden, operating with a “we are with you mindset,” leading with empathy and carrying a heart of compassion are invaluable experiences that can ease even the most challenging moments. This is precisely what the Community Engagement team is offering the Tulsa community. Despite the healthcare system’s flaws that do not fully address the root causes of the lack of access to affordable and equitable healthcare, Tulsa’s Health Department rises amid the ashes. It aims to both combat the past and carve a stronger future.

Click here if you are interested in learning more about programs and supports within Tulsa’s Health Department or connecting with the Community Engagement Team.

*Partnerships named during the interview include – Food on the Move, Oasis Fresh Market, ParentPro, St. Andrews, Tulsa County Emergency Shelter, Tulsa Educare, UniteUs, WIC, and Youth Services.

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