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When you hear the name, Salvation Army, you think Red Kettle, right? As you should; but don’t just think about bell ringing at the holidays. Salvation Army, a faith-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to serving people in need without discrimination, can be an excellent partner to physician organizations and other healthcare groups seeking sustainable change in the community through grass roots efforts.

While I’ve been on the Metro Detroit Advisory Board of the of the Salvation Army since 2021, I was not asked to write about the organization. I just can’t help myself. Our working relationship started in 2020, when MedNetOne Health Solutions collaborated with the Salvation Army to bring primary care services to its Macomb Harbor Light facility, a residential treatment program for those experiencing substance use disorder, and one of three operated by the Great Lakes Division.

Like many positive working partnerships, our collaboration grew – in large part due to the leadership of Capt. Jamie Winkler, executive director of the Eastern Michigan Harbor Light System. Most recently, Capt. Winkler decided to spearhead the Salvation Army’s efforts with the Michigan Medicaid redetermination program, which is part of a post pandemic nationwide initiative to assist Medicaid beneficiaries verify the factors of eligibility to ensure continuation of coverage. Such a project also lends itself to community health workers (CHWs), who indeed have played a part in the massive Medicaid project through the Salvation Army and other nonprofit groups.

While the titles may vary, the Medicaid redetermination program presents a perfect example of embedding CHWs into the community for a project that demands boots on the ground for optimal results. Plus, with Medicaid’s focus on the most vulnerable in society, we again see the intersection of CHWs and the social determinants of health (SDOH).

Sticking with the topic of medication assisted treatment and substance use disorder, a few words on the opioid health home (OHH). Like the Patient-Centered Medical Home, it’s not an actual home but refers to comprehensive and coordinated care management services throughout the healthcare system for Medicaid beneficiaries battling opioid use disorder. Through a primary care clinic partnership that ultimately started with our organization and Judson Center, the clinic – under the direction of nurse practitioner Elizabeth (Liz) Haberkorn – has embraced the OHH model concept and is committed to providing core services such as comprehensive care management, care coordination, health promotion, comprehensive transitional care, individual and family support and referrals to community and social services.

I bring this up because the addition of OHH services circles back to the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light program, which has been on SE Michigan’s frontlines to promote medication assisted treatment. That’s what good partnerships do. They create synergies that lead to more and better ways to serve our population.

Maybe the Salvation Army isn’t the right partner for your particular organization. The takeaway, though, is to seek introductions to the many community-based social service agencies that need a clinical partner for some aspect of current or future programming. Not every organization will be a fit – but at least one will be. And a clue to that fit might include whether or not the organization currently uses – or is open to using – the services of community health workers for optimal impact.