Librarians Hit the Books to Help Residents with Health Reform

When our staff reached out to Jennifer Koehane, the executive director of the CT Library Consortium last spring, little did we realize how fruitful the seeds of those early conversations would prove to be for the residents of the state.

The librarians and the foundation immediately discovered a major mutual goal: to make sure residents understood the new health care reforms, especially in the clamor and confusion around the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the October opening of the state’s new health insurance marketplace, Access Health CT.

Anticipating that patrons would turn to them for answers and even help signing up for health coverage, librarians expressed concerns about having reliable information and the most effective ways they could assist.  The foundation collaborated with them to adapt a workshop that the foundation had developed earlier for the public.

The objective was to get librarians up to speed about the ACA (what it is and what it isn’t) and Access Health CT (what it is and how it works) in the bigger context of some basics about the nation’s health care system. The foundation learned a lot from them in the process, including how to communicate the sometimes confusing information more clearly and effectively and what questions to anticipate.

In late August, CLC launched regional workshops for librarians with more than 250 librarians trained through the fall.  CLC also worked with the foundation to develop specific resource materials for librarians.  Librarians say they are now more confident about how to talk about the ACA and can better assist people.  Most importantly, they know how to direct people seeking health coverage to certified navigators, assistors and brokers.

Jennifer Keohane and the CLC staff deserve much credit for the success of this community collaboration. CLC has been recognized on the national front as a best practices state library network on this issue.

The librarian training has opened doors for ongoing  education.  Libraries are scheduling health care workshops, open to the public, and offering a vetted source of easy-to-use information to the communities they serve.  Twenty workshops have been scheduled and more are in the works.  In addition, libraries are hosting Healthy Chat information sessions and health coverage enrollment fairs sponsored by Access Health CT.

The partnership has proven so successful that the foundation and CLC are planning to launch library-hosted community conversations on health in the spring. Stay tuned for more information in 2014.

If you are interested in scheduling a health care workshop at your local library, please contact your library and ask them to work through CT Library Consortium and Universal Health Care Foundation to set up a workshop. Also, check out our website for postings of scheduled library events.

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