Terri Reilly Health Services, a Community Health Center serving patients across southwest Idaho, aims to ensure that every patient has a positive experience as they receive the healthcare they need. At Terri Reilly, providing for a patient includes providing care for the whole person, as demonstrated by the work the Terri Reilly staff does to strengthen their entire community. In celebration of National Health Center Week, Susan Burton (SB) and I sat down with Jesus Blanco, the Community Outreach and Patient Navigator Manager at Terri Reilly. We wanted to learn what drives him to advocate and how providing for the whole patient has become integral to the operations at Terri Reilly Health Center.
Chioma Chikezie (CC): What personal experiences have led to you being a tireless advocate for Community Health Centers and their patients? How have you persisted during the challenges of the last few years?
Jesus Blanco (JB): As a child, I received most of my medical services at a Community Health Center in Homedale, Idaho. I remember the staff at the clinic translating for my parents and providing us with healthcare onsite without question. Knowing that Community Health Centers were around and were providing care to folks that looked like me, my parents, and a community of Latino farmworkers, was very cool. My parents have always been great advocates for folks in the community to help each other, and this idea of helping others is core to who I am. I’m happy to be here at Terri Reilly, managing their outreach programs and breaking down barriers with our team of Patient Navigators.
CC: What are the most rewarding aspects of working in a patient-focused environment?
JB: I appreciate that we serve the folks who would otherwise struggle to connect to care. Knowing that we are making a real impact for every person we see, addressing, and breaking down barriers is super cool. I also love that we can work in an outreach setting. We use state, demographic, and UDS data to determine which populations need care, and we take our mobile medical and dental services into those areas. It’s amazing. Every day I get to look at the great work my team is doing through data or experience it face to face. Reilly is a place where it makes me happy to get up early and get to work and work late because every day, I get to make an impact in individuals’ lives.
CC: As the Community Outreach Manager at Terri Reilly, how would you say your work directly impacts the patient experience at Terri Reilly?
JB: As the Outreach and Patient Navigator Manager, I ensure that our staff focuses on breaking down health barriers in patients’ lives. I look at the health data that comes in and see what folks are missing related to housing, insurance, safety, or any health barrier, and ensure that we have workflows to address these barriers. I can see how we are making an impact on hundreds of people’s lives daily.
CC: I feel like most medical settings, such as hospitals or private clinics, meet patients’ needs on a surface level. I’ve always appreciated that CHCs tailor their services directly to what their patients need, which is especially important when you consider the diversity of the United States. The needs of a Community Health Center in Idaho may differ significantly from those of a Community Health Center in New York City.
JB: It is important for us to recognize that we have the ability, tools, and support to go deeper with our patients. I hold myself and my team to a higher standard, and I love that our leadership supports our work to make a real impact on our patients’ lives.
CC: What are some of the services at Terri Reilly that may eliminate potential barriers to health care for your patients and facilitate the patient experience, such as the Patient Navigator program?
JB: Since the beginning, Terri Reilly has always utilized health workers in some capacity to connect to patients and break down barriers. We have ensured that Patient Navigators go above and beyond the services of community health workers. We help individuals apply for LIHEAP or EBT cards and connect them to transportation to and from the CHC. Patient Navigators are unique because they deal with anything that’s hard or does not fit well into any other team. Patient Navigators break down the barriers to access care without having to refer to a different department; we do all that on our own. You name it, and we do it.
CC: How do you work to make the lawmakers and stakeholders see Community Health Centers’ importance and contributions to their communities? How do you incorporate your political advocacy into your outreach work?
JB: I have always been interested in connecting who we are as an organization to policies. Whenever I go to an event, I make sure that our leaders know what we do so they can communicate to legislators. I speak at monthly meetings about the work that we are doing to ensure that our leaders have all the information needed to make politicians aware of our work. I also do tours of our services and feel confident in my ability to speak to legislators in a way that resonates with Republican and Democratic politicians.
SB: What guidance would you give to people new to advocacy and navigating how to message and tap into their passion depending on their representatives?
JB: NACHC held a training about the culture of advocacy, and I loved that because advocacy is a culture. It’s not an add-on or afterthought. As a mission-driven organization, we must advocate for our patients. This comes to life when we provide for our patients and interact with our community.
CC: Which community and patient outreach efforts have you found to be the most successful? How would you determine success in your work?
JB: I measure success in great stories that come out. A great story is a goal for every event that we do. What is the remarkable story that came out of how we helped someone today? Another is seeing a full schedule. If I have a mobile medical event, I want to reach as many people as possible. To me, that means going out to make it happen. We have outreach efforts such as flyers, social media, work with our marketing department, and patient information data to connect to people in the area where we will be.
CC: How has the Terri Reilly Health Services board aided your overall efforts to remain patient-centered?
JB: It’s all about outstanding leadership. Great work and connecting to patients happen only with great leaders and boards who understand who we are and serve. Terri Reilly is an excellent organization with a Board of Directors who connect with and appreciate the people we serve. Our executive leadership is also outstanding at cultivating an environment of mission-driven staff. We have a lot of folks who live by the core values and mission of Terri Reilly. That is a result of the board’s and the leadership’s support.
CC: I would love to hear more about some of the past collaborative outreach efforts you’ve done. Have you done outreach with any non-medical institutions in your community to reach and serve patients?
JB: We have some great established partnerships within the community. For example, we work with all the Migrant Head Starts to reach the Latino population. The local radio stations are great partners, and we have done some exciting events with them. We are part of coalitions that work with homeless and refugee populations. We are working to do a few events this month with the Homeless Coalition. We’re not here for the glory, we’re here to provide services, and sometimes we must rely on our partners who have deep roots with their patients to help us tailor our services to their needs so that we can be successful.
CC: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted how Terri Reilly approaches service to patients and their community?
JB: When the COVID-19 vaccinations started rolling out, we partnered with the state to provide those vaccinations. We reorganized our resources available in clinical settings and communities to provide those vaccinations. We did that exceptionally well. We were out in the communities three to four times a week, giving hundreds of shots. The cool thing about this work is that it’s constantly changing. We provided the service in rural areas and got shots to people who would otherwise struggle to get a vaccination. We never closed our clinics and never stopped providing quality care to our patients.
Community Health Centers have distinguished themselves as assets to their communities that go above and beyond what it means to provide care for a patient. Terri Reilly Health Services’ work to eliminate health barriers and go within the community to provide care is a testament to the mission to the whole person.
Many thanks to Jesus Blanco, Community Outreach and Patient Navigator Manager, for speaking with us about Terri Reilly Health Services.