ARCHS is 2010 Health Advocacy Organization of the Year

Of The St. Louis American

“Despite being a world-renowned center of health care and medical research, many of our residents lack access to care,” Wendell E. Kimbrough, the chief executive officer for the Area Resources for Community and Human Services, said of St. Louis.

But more importantly, St. Louis-area residents lack resources to live healthy lifestyles. In response, ARCHS focuses on preventive healthcare through a network of more than 400 community partners.

In Greater St. Louis, ARCHS’ partnerships deliver $31.2 million in additional community services.

This year, ARCHS will receive the Health Advocacy Organization of the Year Award at the St. Louis American Foundation’s 2010 Salute to Excellence in Health Care on Saturday, April 24 at the Ritz Carlton in Clayton.

One of the programs ARCHS assists, through its community partners, is the Health and Dental Care for Kids clinic. Paola Margarita Rijosis is a social worker at the midtown-based clinic, serving 25,000 children.

“Before I came, patients who did not have an emergent need sometimes had to wait long periods of time before they could see a counselor in the community,” Rijosis said.

“Now that I am on-site, patients can make an appointment to see me. If further counseling indicates the need for a psychiatrist, I can help the family navigate the referral process.”

Funding for her position was provided through a United Way grant, and ARCHS’ was the conduit for that funding.

She said ARCHS’ support allowed the clinic time to demonstrate the value of a social worker for families. Because of the grant’s success, the clinic applied for and received an additional two years of funding for her position through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Foundation.

ARCHS makes these types of connections to healthy living throughout the region. Just a small sample includes:

• Missouri HealthNet (former MC Plus) Partnerships: ARCHS provides support to a regional Missouri HealthNet (MHN) education and outreach committee of community volunteers. Currently more than 180,000 St. Louis City and St. Louis County residents receive MHN services.

• Pre-K/Early Childhood Partnerships: ARCHS currently supports more than 80 child care centers that include a focus on providing safe/nurturing environments, developing physical motor skills and healthy eating habits. Annually more than 3,000 children receive this healthy start and 150 area jobs are impacted. Many of ARCHS’ early childhood standards to increase access and quality are being used as models by the state.

• After-School Partnerships: ARCHS currently supports 45 after-school locations that include physical activities and healthy snacks, in addition to academic enrichment and positive social relationships. More than 4,000 children each year receive this booster dose of health prevention. Additionally, 260 jobs are supported. ARCHS’ after-school funding includes a nationally recognized model that leverages State, City and private resources.

• Gang/Drug Prevention Partnerships: More than 2,200 students in grades K-8 have completed courses taught by nationally trained, local law enforcement officers which focus on improving youth life skills and decision-making to reduce the impact of bullying and drugs.

• City of St. Louis Adult Life Skills and Recreation Partnerships: Programming provides interactive lessons to 240 young men ages 18-35 on topics ranging from financial literacy to health issues. Also includes sports activities with local law enforcement officers to help improve community interaction and trust.

• Health Careers: ARCHS actively promotes health-related careers through its welfare to work and prisoner reentry partnerships, and has conducted summer camps for area youth in partnership with Maryville University’s School of Health Professions.

“The only way to become a healthier region in one generation is to create healthier lifestyle choices in all of our neighborhoods,” Kimbrough said.