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A Mid-Year Reflection

These are the moments that define us.

I’m not talking about the noted moments: those times of crises and pomp that etch names and images into our collective psyche. Rather, I’m talking about the often quiet, always significant aftermath, when we truly decide if what we’ve learned will shape who we become. Granted, this may sound a little too poetic for a blog entry about company operations, but we are truly at a unique moment in our company’s history, a point when the incidents of our time are happening directly in the space that Colorado Access is built to straddle. Our narrative will be written by how we fill that space.

In many ways, the first half of 2021 has been a time of reflection and response for our company. How do we appropriately reflect on the events of 2020, and how do we effectively respond? In other ways, the past six months have been a reiteration of our commitment to the things we signed up for when we accepted responsibility as a Regional Accountable Entity. In every way, these 180 or so days have been an opportunity to blend those things into a more whole, more understanding version of ourselves—to move purposefully between thoughts of equity and the actions that engender it, plied as support and reliance for the people and partners we serve.

This year, Colorado Access population health, care management and program operations teams have worked, successfully, to launch large-scale COVID-19 vaccination support programs aimed at connecting members to resources and education and helping to set appointments. As of May, for example, 100% of Colorado Access homebound members have been outreached with support for their vaccinations. Community engagement teams are working to develop and implement further funding support for innovative programs that lean directly into issues of disparity and seek to empower community partners in their reach and efficacy. Community Innovation Pool funding will focus on areas such as bolstering a more equitable clinical workforce pipeline and spurring culturally accessible health education and literacy. One particular program, the health equity design challenge, will convene disparate stakeholders around the issue of high-risk maternity within BIPOC populations, and challenge participants to develop a programmatic solution through a mediated, creative problem-solving workshop. At the same time, provider relations staff are working to develop a deeper understanding of our network and the impacts COVID-19 has had on our many provider partners. This work requires a focused, coordinated, and effective outreach effort and is resulting not only in improved data about our network, but in enhanced relationships with our providers and heightened trust in Colorado Access as a supportive partner—something that is difficult to quantify, but impossible to replace.

Our member engagement team continues its efforts to better understand the member experience and roll that understanding into effective policy. Colorado Access is dedicated to making our member experience the best possible, and this begins with empathy, consideration, and respect; runs through divergent perspectives; and leads to focused solutions for real-world problems. In the coming months, member engagement will be working directly with members to inform, discuss, and listen—and develop methods for sharing member experiences with varied audiences.

Across the organization—as a direct result of COVID-19’s reiteration of inequities—all teams are committing to a deeper look at our regions, using qualitative and quantitative data, experience, and knowledge to build a more complete view of the people we serve, the providers we support, and the neighborhoods in which they live and work. This is exciting work that has the potential to reshape the way we view our opportunities to engage with members, work with providers, and drive improved health outcomes.

At the same time, Colorado Access continues our work as a leader in administering, developing and delivering health programming for Colorado’s most vulnerable populations. Changes to the state’s CHP+ Managed Care Network has added increased responsibility to our role as a CHP+ administrator. Our behavioral health and utilization management teams continue to collaborate with partners in multiple arenas to develop a network, partnerships, and processes to meet the requirements of the recently implemented substance use disorder (SUD) Medicaid benefit. This is not nearly as simple as the previous sentence makes it sound, as it cuts across numerous fields of expertise and rounds together a complex stew of regulations, benefits, expectations and best practices, and clinical knowledge to create an environment where members struggling with SUD can get the clinical, behavioral, and emotional care they need.

The Colorado Access practice support team has convened work with community mental health centers and our enhanced clinical partners to co-manage the health care needs of around 800 of our members with complex needs, bringing about an integrated approach to health care that wraps behavioral and physical health management and services into a unified package of care for members who need it most.  And all along, our care management teams continue to help thousands of Colorado Access members—many with acute needs—navigate a system that is confusing and can often seem unforgiving and intimidating. From care reminders, to help with non-medical resources, to personal support such as attending an appointment with a member, the passion and knowledge of our care managers has been, and continues to be, a difference maker in many people’s lives.

Our efforts, however, haven’t stopped there. So far, during 2021, Colorado Access teams have launched a dental reminder program for young members, ages 0 to 17, to remind them (or their parents) to get their annual dental visit; and unveiled several internet landing pages to provide education and information to members around topics such as colorectal cancer screening, tobacco cessation, and suicide awareness and prevention.  We have sponsored and will sponsor over two dozen business events to help our provider and community partners celebrate their success and meet their aims; participated in innovative COVID-19 vaccination efforts, such as the Concacaf soccer tournament and the RTD bus stop vaccine pilot program; and have worked with the Little Big Fridge program to help get food to those in need. In addition, our deep experience and expertise has been on display as team members have been invited to testify before legislative committees, staffed and participated in or on countless committees, workgroups, and community boards, and presented at various national conferences, such as the Medicaid Innovations Conference, multiple Medicaid Health Plans of America webinars, the Bright Spots in Health Care national podcast, and the Mostly Medicaid national summer conference…just to name a few. This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Colorado Access teams have done, and continue to do, far too much to condense into a 1200-word blog post.

The most exciting part of this, however, is the realization that, after 25 years, our journey is truly just beginning. There is renewed vigor, across the company, to search for those things that aren’t as fair as they should be, aren’t as good as they could be, aren’t as whole as they would be without us, and give ourselves to their betterment. From what I see on a daily basis, the passion is real and endemic—and therein lies our strength. These aren’t the headline moments of 2020, but the defining moments in its wake. We have never been better positioned to lead the way through its jostling.