Molly Tonello was a Rocky Mountain Health Plans pharmacy research technician when she first learned about the health plan’s care coordinators. The Colorado native observed the program leadership advocating for and empowering members with compassion. And she wanted to be like them.
“This is where my heart is,” Molly says. “I asked for my job.”
The Colorado native now works alongside her role models, Sandy Dowd and Eve Presler, as a Medicaid outreach coordinator in an office with four other colleagues, coordinating care and social health services for 180,000+ Health First Colorado members in Mesa County.
“Every day is a little bit different, because everyone has complex needs,” Molly says. “I don’t think I’ve ever had two days that are the same.” She often sees people struggling with addiction. “Advocating with and for them is something I’m passionate about—helping them find primary care providers, addressing social barriers, like housing needs, that they have to overcome to live a more successful, healthier life.”
A typical day for Molly and her colleagues begins with calling members who were recently discharged from a hospital to ascertain if they need assistance coordinating follow up appointments or with other barriers to health and health care. The team also receives referrals for care coordination from health care providers and their staff, as well as from members themselves.
In the afternoons, Molly heads into the field to meet clients at their homes, in shelters, or wherever they’re most comfortable meeting with her.
Molly begins most potential client interaction with an assessment of their needs, face-to-face.
“They may have a housing need, or they can’t pay for their medications—or it may be that their stove doesn’t work, or they need help finding a doctor. We identify the needs together,” she says. “It’s working with them so they come to those conclusions on their own---so they realize that they’re in charge.”
Empowering members is critical, she says.
“They need to know that they’re not alone. We’re here to help them navigate those waters, to shoulder the journey with them, but not take the journey from them. If you do everything for someone, they don’t have ownership. But if we make the call or fill out the form with them and support them, and follow up and follow through, they are empowered so they can do it themselves. We’re here to show them and reassure them, empower them, but also to get out of the way so they realize their ability to do things for themselves.”
Molly says she finds the work humbling and fulfilling; she says compassion and empathy are just the right way to treat people in your community. “You enable them and empower them. It fills my cup.”