New health official set to build from ground up

August 28, 2008|By Janene Holzberg | Janene Holzberg,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Healthy Howard Inc. recently announced the hiring of Erin Reiney to coordinate community resources for the county's health access plan, scheduled to be launched Sept. 24.

The nonprofit organization will manage the Healthy Howard Plan, which will provide access to comprehensive health services to 2,000 uninsured county residents.

Reiney, a Baltimorean who has a master's degree in public health, said she is encouraged by the response she has received from community organizations in her first few weeks on the job.

Responsible for compiling a list of businesses that are willing to offer free or reduced-cost services to plan participants, Reiney said she is excited about building the program from the ground up.

"We have an ambitious and innovative goal," Reiney said of the county's plan to help uninsured residents manage their health care costs through lifestyle changes that will prevent expensive hospital stays.

"My position has an interesting challenge - convincing the community to rally around these people as we problem-solve ways to overcome individual barriers to a healthy lifestyle on a case-by-case basis," she said.

Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, the county's health officer, said Howard is out in front with the program.

"New York City has a similar plan for 8 million people, yet has less than 20 community partnerships," Beilenson said. "Yet here in Howard County, we have 25 partnerships, and the list is growing all the time."

Reiney stood out among candidates for the position because of her strong interpersonal skills and because she is "a dynamic, self-starter who is doing all the things we want to see," Beilenson said. "This job demands a tremendous amount of outreach."

Reiney will work with six health coaches, who have yet to be hired, to come up with a "snapshot" of each participant and then will assist in devising individual health plans. According to the plan summary, participants who do not take steps to become healthier will lose access to all services, except primary care and preventive health screenings.

Reiney said she is compiling a list of recreation centers that will be available to plan members and will next tackle transportation issues.

"If I can arrange a location for someone to exercise and get active, I need to know they have a way to get there," she said, underscoring the challenge of predicting what resources people will require.

"Some things we can plan for, but who knows what things might pop up," she said.

Community organizations interested in participating may contact Reiney at 410-313-5170.

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