How United Way is improving health in the St. Louis community

How United Way is improving health in the St. Louis community

Many of our neighbors in the St. Louis region face barriers in navigating the healthcare system and finding the help they need to thrive – and it’s putting local people at risk.

“High costs of care, being uninsured or underinsured, or not living near quality providers are all barriers that can contribute to unmet health needs, financial burdens and more,” said Regina Greer, United Way’s chief impact officer. “By building a strong nonprofit safety net that helps to fill the gaps caused by these barriers, United Way is working to make the entire St. Louis region stronger.”

Here are four ways United Way is helping here in the St. Louis region by improving health for our community members.

Access to healthcare providers

United Way strengthens the St. Louis region’s nonprofit safety net by providing crucial, stable funding to local nonprofits, including 41 that focus on wellness. Together, these nonprofits work to ensure all of our neighbors have access to healthcare supports like treatment programs, patient education and other services.

This has been especially critical during the COVID-19 crisis. Through ongoing funding and emergency response grants, United Way has empowered local nonprofits to meet increased and changing healthcare needs in the community, like providing COVID-19 testing, transitioning to virtual appointments and more.

This support helped Jessica*, who has Lupus and lost her income due to COVID-19. She couldn’t afford to pay for crucial medications, which put her at risk of facing additional complications from the disease.

With support from United Way, Lupus Foundation of America’s Heartland Chapter was able to help Jessica cover the cost.

“I was at a loss for words when I received this help,” Jessica said. “I could hold my head high because I wasn’t having to ask my dad for money for my prescriptions. And I was able to get all of them, not just what could be afforded that month.”

Supports for seniors, individuals with disabilities and people living with chronic illnesses

For aging adults, individuals with disabilities and people living with chronic illnesses, specialized treatment options, resources for tracking medications and other supports are vital to living active, independent lives.

For example, when Charlie was diagnosed with a rare eye condition and developmental delays as a newborn, his family needed assistance finding therapeutic services to help him thrive. With United Way’s support, Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments was there to connect them with the support they needed, including an encouraging community of families in similar situations.

“The biggest gift that Delta Gamma gave us was hope,” Charlie’s dad John said. “We saw we weren’t going through it alone. It’s not an insurmountable obstacle; it’s just a twist in the story of our lives.”

Charlie’s story is just one example of the variety of healthcare needs our community members face. It takes a strong network of nonprofits, powered by stable funding, working together to provide specialized resources, fill the gaps and help everyone thrive. Through its strong support of this network, United Way helped more than 18,000 people across the St. Louis community to manage chronic health conditions in 2019.

Help with behavioral health and substance use

Behavioral health challenges and substance use issues can have far-reaching impacts, affecting a person’s family, financial stability, physical wellness and more. For example, the opioid crisis has deeply affected our community, resulting in more than 4,400 deaths in Illinois and more than 2,200 in Missouri in the last two years, in addition to decreased quality of life and economic opportunity.

Education, treatment programs and other resources keep people not just physically healthy, but mentally and emotionally healthy, too. United Way partners with local nonprofits to ensure those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction have access to resources to achieve sobriety and become healthy and productive individuals.

With United Way’s support, in 2019, more than 18,400 local people experienced fewer mental, emotional and behavioral health symptoms.

Connections to vital resources

Whether it’s finding clinics, support groups or resources for an aging parent, United Way 2-1-1 is always there to answer the call. By dialing 2-1-1, families from across our region can get connected to critical resources to stay well.

The need for this support increased dramatically during the COVID-19 crisis. In 2020, 2-1-1 connected more than 17,200 people with healthcare resources in the St. Louis community. 2-1-1 also partnered with local agencies to create a COVID-19 hotline, which provided up-to-date information about testing, re-opening guidelines, and much more to help nearly 14,000 local people stay safe.

United Way also partners with St. Louis Mental Health Board and Behavioral Health Response to connect callers to mental health professionals who can help manage stress, anxiety and uncertainty brought on by COVID-19.

“People think, ‘If I avoid this, if I don’t think about this, it will go away,'” said Kristin Cowart, senior project director at the St. Louis Mental Health Board. “Talking about and processing things you’re feeling – anxious or worried or scared or lonely – actually helps you feel better. It creates a place to process what’s going on and not hold onto that.”

When one of us is helped, we are all lifted. By helping our neighbors across the St. Louis region find the healthcare support they need to live full, active lives, United Way is creating a healthier, stronger region for us all.

*Name changed for privacy

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James Taylor
James Taylor