After Lizbeth Cedillo earned a degree in psychology, she entered the world of professional purchasing—a far cry from her education roots. But the pendulum swung firmly back in place when she became a care coordinator for North Colorado Health Alliance in 2018.
“I wanted to do something that would benefit the community,” she says. “I love this job. In purchasing, I was able to get a good deal on 10,000 bottles of vitamins, but I never saw a change in people’s lives.”
From her office in Sunrise Loveland Community Health Center, Lizbeth works with five colleagues to connect individuals with the health and social service resources they need for optimal health. Lizbeth’s work is based in the community, so she meets members of Health First Colorado (the state’s Medicaid program) wherever they are—in their homes, a coffee shop, at a doctor’s office or a community agency.
The typical day begins with checking in telephonically with Health First Colorado members who are referred to her by providers at Sunrise or Banner health centers in Region 1 of Colorado’s Regional Alliance Entity, or by Rocky Mountain Health Plans or the state health department. Individuals can also walk in to ask for assistance at Sunrise Loveland Community Health Center.
Lizbeth sets appointments with members to help them manage a wide range of needs, meeting face to face with three or four members on any given day. Every day is different—which is just fine with Lizbeth.
“Sometimes your day goes as planned, and sometimes it doesn’t,” she laughs. “Yesterday, I went to an orthopedic specialist appointment with a member, but I’ve met people at the social security office, in a coffee shop—it just depends on where they’re most comfortable.”
The first time Lizbeth works with a client, she conducts a comprehensive assessment of their physical, mental and social health needs. The 70-question assessment includes determining if they have a primary care physician or a dentist, as well as covering needs like adequate food, housing, personal safety, and mental health access. Based on the assessment, she works with the member to develop a plan of care that includes goals and activities to meet them.
“Then we start working towards the goals,” she says. “And most of the time we take baby steps at first. But we also connect them to different resources to help them get there.”
Many of Lizbeth’s clients are homeless, which can create significant barriers to better health. “If they’re not in a home, they may not be able to take their medications because it’s easy to lose them when they move around so much. And medications aren’t easily replaced,” she says.
“Another barrier is just how they’re treated by others,” she adds. “One client told me, ‘if you have a backpack and you’re on a bike, people shun you in this town.’ Not having a stable living environment makes everything else very hard.”
Because North Colorado Health Alliance partners with a wide range of community and health-focused organizations, Lizbeth can show members the ropes to navigate their own health. Connecting a member to a regular primary care provider is the access point to see a specialist when needed, for example. She also navigates members to grant organizations to pay for needed services not covered by Health First Colorado, such as glasses, dentures, or even transportation to a food bank. Once the member is connected, they can begin accessing services on their own, too.
“We’re person-centered, and we want them to be able to self-manage,” Lizbeth says. “This work has to be done in a way so you’re focusing on the member—you set your own prejudices and experiences aside. Most of the members I work with are really trying to make it through a crisis. There’s no room for being judgmental. We do this with a heart to help.”