The Kearny County Hospital’s Pioneer Care Advocacy Team was honored with the Janet Sevier Gilbreath Special Project Recognition Award earlier this month in Hutchinson.

The award, named in honor of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund’s first chairperson, is given to one funded project each year that best exemplifies the fund’s vision of Christian health ministry as it pertains to operational excellence and social justice.

The advocacy team provides care coordination services that include home visits, participation rounds for acute care hospital patients and visits with emergency room patients triaged by medical providers as non-emergency cases. The service is designed to provide better coordination of patient care results, a reduction in emergency room visits that could be handled elsewhere and better outcomes for patients.

The group’s work helped to reduce the unnecessary visits to the hospital’s emergency room by 88 percent one year, from a monthly high of 110 visits down to 14. In 2016, 168 people received care coordination services, and 245 received the services in 2017.

Care coordinators also assist patients with Medicaid applications, facilitate access to assistance obtaining otherwise unaffordable medications, make referrals to community-based services and provide transportation to people who need help accessing behavioral health and other services.

In 2017, the Health Fund supported the salary of a master’s-level social worker, which enabled the team to expand its level services to the refugee and immigrant population living in and around Kearny County.

The United Methodist Health Ministry Fund was formed in 1986 by the Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church with $30 million in proceeds from the sale of the Wesley Medical Center in Wichita. Since its founding, the Hutchinson-based Health Fund has invested more than $69 million in grants to improve the health of Kansans, with a special focus on the western two-thirds of the state.