Connected systems will lead to healthier lives for all people living in Colorado.
The Regional Health Connector Program
Built with the vision that connected systems will lead to healthier lives for all people living in Colorado, the Regional Health Connector Program works to advance health across the state through an innovative workforce dedicated to improving linkages between primary care practices, behavioral health care providers, public health and social services.
Regional Health Connectors (RHCs) are locally-based and have a history of serving their communities. Because of this, RHCs are uniquely positioned to identify and address the unique health issues faced in their communities and do so through the development of community-based projects that address health issues or barriers to health in each of Colorado’s 21 Health Statistic regions.
Improving Health in Colorado
Originally formed with funding through the Colorado State Innovation Model (SIM) initiative and the EvidenceNOW Southwest (ENSW) project, the Regional Health Connector Program began in 2015 with two RHCs serving the Denver metro region and soon reached full force in 2017, scaling its operations to host RHCs in each of Colorado’s 21 designated health regions.
Following the end of the SIM and ENSW grant funding in June of 2019, the Regional Health Connector program has successfully continued at a smaller level with funding through the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. With a scaled down second round of grant funding, RHCs’ roles shifted to part-time capacity beginning in January of 2020. As the impacts of the pandemic increased across the state in spring of 2020, the foundational strength of the Regional Health Connector workforce became increasingly evident. RHCs not only continued their critical role in developing and maintaining connections across sectors, but quickly shifted their work to support local COVID-19 response efforts – all while navigating a changing landscape for healthcare and service provision and addressing increased social needs to serve regional partners and community members during a time of emergency. 2021 marks the fifth year of statewide operation for the RHC program, which continues to respond to local health needs and priorities through local priority projects and new behavioral health funding.
Serving as liaisons to physician offices, public health and community organizations, RHCs create partnerships that lead to healthier communities and healthier practices across the state. RHCs provide links among the various components of the healthcare delivery system with a particular focus on primary care, practice transformation organizations, the public health system, community organizations, state, county and city agencies, and the academic health system.
One function, for example, is to build relationships with primary care practices to make them aware of the resources available to help them evolve to new models of care delivery and compensation. RHCs are based across Colorado as a part of the Colorado Health Extension System, a multi-stakeholder collaborative that creates a statewide infrastructure to support and coordinate practice transformation and to connect primary care to local public health and community organizations for community health improvement initiatives.
As residents of the communities where they work and as employees of local host organizations that have a history of serving their communities, RHCs are uniquely positioned to identify and address the unique health issues posed in their region.
Learn more about the Regional Health Connector Program through our Five-Year Milestone Report, COVID-19 Pandemic Response Summary, Social Network Analysis and stories of regional impact.
Learn more about the Regional Health Connector program including what makes the Regional Health Connector Program unique, the partners who are involved in the program, how to connect with your local RHC and more.
Behavioral Health Recovery Act (BHRA) and Regional Health Connector Projects
In 2021, the Regional Health Connector Program received funding through Colorado Senate Bill 137 to improve behavioral and mental healthcare systems. Each RHC conducted a local needs assessment of their Region by analyzing national, state, and local data to identify priority gaps in behavioral and mental health services. Based on this data, the RHCs proposed projects intended to address these priority gaps and improve health equity using local knowledge, services, and assets.
Through these projects, all RHCs addressed health equity in their communities by supporting specific populations for which the data indicates have insufficient access to mental and behavioral health services. Learn more about the areas of focus and populations of focus that each RHC supported through the BHRA Project Summary below.
Health is determined by more than health care alone.
Many factors, such as transportation, nutrition, education, influence our health outside of the doctor’s office.
Primary care builds trust.
The unique relationship between a primary care practice and a patient can uncover opportunities for connections to comprehensive services.
Health is local.
Health starts in the neighborhoods where we live, learn, work, and play, and sustainable solutions must honor local diversity.
Action must be based on evidence.
Local data and experience paired with scientific studies can help us achieve better health outcomes faster.
There is more to learn.
Innovative approaches to complex challenges will improve the future of health and health care.
Coordination leads to better health.
Connected, comprehensive care will leverage available resources to keep Coloradans healthy.
As Featured in Trailhead’s Newsletter
Learn more about the Regional Health Connector Program from past Trailhead newsletters.