DHHS Healthy Opportunities Pilots and the Y

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Three North Carolina YMCAs are partnering with NC DHHS for the Healthy Opportunities Pilots (HOPs). The pilot is the first comprehensive program in the country to test and evaluate the impact of providing specific evidence-based, non-medical interventions related to housing, food, transportation, interpersonal safety, and toxic stress to high-needs Medicaid enrollees.

As of February 23, 2023, there are 3,889 HOPS enrollees, and 38,560 services have been delivered at an investment of $5 million. The federal government has provided up to $650 million over five years for the pilots.

The pilot launched in May 2022 in three regions of the state, with Williams YMCA of Avery County, YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina and YMCA of Western North Carolina serving needs in their communities. 

Spotlight on Williams YMCA of Avery County

For the Williams Y, this builds on the community outreach work that Y has been doing for 15 years; participation in the pilot provides capacity-building funds that enable the Y to use the donations they have previously received for this outreach for other community needs. The Y provides healthy food boxes, fruit and vegetable prescriptions, private transportation to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, and the Y; and some housing supports, such as help paying utilities; as well as offering the Diabetes Prevention Program remotely in all 18 counties of the western HOPS region.

In the fall when DHHS rolls out behavior health services, the Y will also provide support for interpersonal violence and toxic stress in Avery County. Referrals come to the Y and other participating organizations from NC Care 360.

“This work has been eye-opening,” said Sheila Bauer, Outreach Director for the Williams YMCA. “It’s been eye-opening to see how people are treated and how they sometimes fall through the cracks. Even though they have Medicaid, they are not always getting the services available to them. They don’t always know what they qualify for, so the Y has helped educate them.” The Y also has connected with new partners to support this work, including Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture and Tractor Food and Farms. Through these partnerships, the Y tailors the healthy food boxes to clients’ needs.