The Aunt Bertha Blog

Capital Area Food Bank Leverages Aunt Bertha's Technology to Break Down Barriers


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Photo courtesy of CAFB

The Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) is the largest organization in the Washington metro area working to solve hunger and its companion problems: chronic undernutrition, heart disease, and obesity. As the CAFB has worked for the past 36 years to strengthen the safety net under the region’s most vulnerable neighbors, it has provided nourishing food and other resources to over 540,000 people living in our nation’s capital and its surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. Many of those residents visit pantries, soup kitchens, and other non-profits who receive food from the CAFB; but sometimes, a neighbor in need doesn’t know where their next meal will come from.

For those emergency moments, the CAFB had, until 2015, operated a Hunger Lifeline, whereby community members would call a number to be referred  to the food assistance partner by a CAFB team member on the other end of the phone line. Though well-intentioned, over time the CAFB noticed that these referrals were creating red tape for their callers as they could not receive services without making that call. When the CAFB realized that they had become a gatekeeper, more than a gateway, they knew they had to make a change.

So in 2015, the CAFB did away with their referral system entirely and launched the Food Bank Network, an online search portal for social services, powered by Aunt Bertha. The Food Bank Network is free to the public and offers resources that go beyond food assistance, such as housing, transit, goods and health programs. “It empowers individuals to find the services they need on their own time, with their privacy intact. And it ensures that those resources are up to date," says CAFB’s Director of Marketing, Kirsten Bourne.

And empowered, they are. Before the implementation of Food Bank Network, the CAFB averaged 600 calls to their Hunger Lifeline every month. Following the launch of the Food Bank Network, calls dropped to an average of 50 calls per month. During the same period, the Network has averaged 2,176 online searches per month.

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Because the Food Bank Network captures information for a broader range of services, CAFB can work with their nearly 450 partners to support their community in a deeper, more holistic way.  “We are much more sophisticated about the data we have in terms of need... and are able to better understand the pressing issues facing people that are living in poverty and help organizations unite to face those challenges,” says Bourne. “Food is the hook to bring people into literacy, job training programs and housing.”

Paula Reichel, DC Director of CAFB elaborates, “People and nonprofits oftentimes operate in silos; the [Food Bank Network] is bringing awareness to the very essence of what we are – a network…”

Through her work, Reichel has found that people of all backgrounds and occupations are providing resources for their fellow community members. “Whether it’s policemen, librarians or even teachers with food in their desk, Food Bank Network is a tool for anyone.”

To learn more about what services people are looking for in the greater Washington DC area, download our free report.

Download Washington DC Report  

Topics: data Community building empowerment

Population Health Reporting

Organizations taking a vested interest in population health face a handful of challenges when it comes to identifying the social service needs of their members and/or patients. Historically, it has taken a considerable amount of work to find and organize domestic programs in the United States. Until now, the information on these services has either been scattered or siloed. Aunt Bertha aggregates domestic free and subsidized programs that are direct service from respective county, state, and federal levels.

Whether you are a local nonprofit or a multi-billion dollar health care organization, teams must confront the difficulty of better understanding the social services offered in their local communities, and their patient's respective needs. The inability to do so, can result in a multitude of negative consequences; ranging from expensive readmissions costs to missing the root cause of a member’s problem altogether.

If you are an agency providing a social program, you may understand the demand for your specific offerings, and respective capacity to perform these services. This is helpful, but do you know the number of individuals searching for programs similar to yours in your county? How about how many are searching last week or today?

Currently, most organizations are making anecdotal assumptions about their comminity's needs - or using academic reports that are out-dated. Are you scrambling every time a grant is due? Are you walking around with a pen and pad asking your employees how many people they served last year? In the past, the technology and systems simply haven’t been in place to understand these patient/member communities.

In real-time, Aunt Bertha tracks data related to the demand for specific social programs and the number of resources available to meet those demands. Our inventory reporting helps you clearly understand the current organizations offering programs by geographic location. Nationally, we have a plethora of programs across thousands of domestic providers. 

 Social Service Programs Across the US

Image: Aunt Bertha's customers can see - in real-time - the number of programs of all types in their community through an interactive reporting dashboard powered by Tableau, a world leader in reporting and data visualization software.

Additionally, our data team keeps the information up-to-date, and is constantly sourcing more information. With Aunt Bertha’s data and analytic tools, organizations can better understand the specific social needs of the population they serve and gaps that may exist in the system causing those needs to go unmet. 

However, there’s something even more interesting that our customers are seeing.

What if you could truly understand the needs in your community - in real-time? What if you could see reports that show you the exact number of people looking for food in the neighborhoods you serve? Or what if you provide subsidized dental services and you wanted to know which neighborhoods need the help? 

We believe this kind of data can lead to insights which can change the way social services are found and delivered - and ultimately - improve health outcomes in your community.

There are innovative, forward thinking organizations already looking at their own data to help people get healthier. And we’ve gotten to know some of them. For example, a healthcare system in Baltimore realized that some of their patients just needed a ride to their appointment. If someone who leaves a hospital just shows up to their next follow-up appointment, they are less likely to end up in the emergency room. This hospital system partnered with Uber, and granted these individuals $100 credits to and from the hospital. This is an example of data driven, innovative thinking that will drive down healthcare costs.   

Want to learn more? Join us on Wednesday, January 20th @ 12:00PM CST to learn more about how Aunt Bertha's Social Service Analytics can help your organization identify trends, cut costs, and effectively guide your decision making.

  Webinar Registration

 

Topics: leadership Erine Gray data social good reporting analytics

Leveraging Data to Guide Funding Decisions

The holiday season is an important time to connect with loved ones, reflect on our lives, and appreciate what we have. In 2015, our founder, Erine Gray, was awarded the GLG Social Impact Fellowship for his efforts in helping make human service programs more accessible to those in need. Near the end of the year, GLG generously offered to make a contribution, in Aunt Bertha’s name, to the charity of our choice.

When organizations decide to fund programs, services, or missions, there are many different philosophies to help guide their decision making process. Initially, we leaned towards the idea of helping a local organization operating in Austin, TX. However, when we discussed this internally, our Chief Information Officer, Stu Scruggs, had a bright idea. He thought, since Aunt Bertha is a data rich organization that collects information from federal, state, and local programs nationwide, why don’t we conduct an analysis and determine the area that needs the gift most?

Aunt Bertha has data on available programs for each county around the country, and we regularly look at income and poverty rates for these respective areas. Typically, Aunt Bertha’s robust data strategy is used to help more people reach self-sufficiency, but we quickly realized the data was useful to better identify, and select a worthy recipient.

We dove right into the data, and easily determined one of the poorest counties in the country that could really use the extra help this holiday season (below).


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After a little research on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimate (SAIPE)’s database, Aunt Bertha quickly concluded that Shannon, South Dakota would greatly benefit from the money. The county is entirely within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and contains part of Badlands National Park. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “Shannon County’s population of roughly 13,500 has over 52% of the entire population living at, or below the poverty line.” In May 2015, Shannon County was renamed to Oglala Lakota County, named for the tribal nation that lives there. After the initial research, we ran a program inventory analysis, and looked at the available resources in the specific area.

As we started looking into it, we found a few organizations doing good work in Oglala Lakota. Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation stood out to us because of its reputation and mission: “Empowering Lakota youth & families to improve health, culture and environment of our communities through the healing and strengthening of cultural identity.” Thunder Valley runs multiple projects, and Aunt Bertha helped fund the Youth Shelter Project that serves to shelter at-risk children.


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Teams of all shapes and sizes take advantage of data to help drive their decision making processes. Aunt Bertha helps not only program seekers, but also hospitals and healthcare systems to better understand their communities, and successfully provide holistic care.  

Want to learn more about how Aunt Bertha can help your organization with better data? Join us on Wednesday, January 20th @ 12:00PM CST to learn more about how your organization can leverage data to identify trends, and effectively guide your decision making. 

  Webinar Registration

 

Topics: leadership Erine Gray data social good reporting analytics

Five Things to Consider in Your Social Service Coordination Efforts

People in need, as well as those helping them, have traditionally encountered many challenges around finding and connecting to the programs and resources that can help them. For individuals, especially those without easy internet access, it’s difficult to uncover the state and government-funded programs for which they qualify and even more so to discover the myriad of private and charitable resources available.

Case workers, social workers, families, and others in a helping role are presented with another set of challenges including time constraints, unstructured data, incorrect or outdated information, and lack of insight into programs and services available outside of their local areas.

For care teams, a lack of formal processes around identifying patient social needs and follow up also make it nearly impossible to ‘close the loop’ on whether the patient was able to connect and receive help after the referral was made.

To make matters more difficult, not everyone is comfortable offering information about their personal needs and those needs often go undiscovered, undocumented, and excluded from the care plan. Expeditious and personalized social coordination is key to improving many of the metrics health care organizations are tracking for success and is no longer a component of patient care that can be ignored without consequence. 

As people begin working to organize or increase social service coordination within their care settings, here are five areas to consider:

  1. COMMUNICATION. Make sure questions around social needs are part of the process at various stages of the patient journey. People have different comfort levels with different staff members. Don’t leave it to discharge planners alone to uncover outside factors influencing patient health and wellness. In addition, work to improve communication and collaboration among care teams at all points along the care continuum. According to expert Cheri Lattimer, Executive Director for the Case Management Society of America (CMSA) and National Transitions of Care Coalition (NTOCC), integrated care teams that effectively communicate during transitions and throughout the other stages in the patient journey see higher staff and patient engagement, as well as, an overall improvement in health outcomes. 
  2. ALWAYS INCLUDE CASE MANAGERS/SOCIAL WORKERS. Keep case management and social service teams in the loop at all times. Their function is an integral part of a patient-centered care plan.
  3. STANDARDIZE. Set up a uniform way to manage social coordination within the organization and work to get everyone ‘on the same page’. It will enhance efficiencies and make it easier to track progress. Providing standardized tools and processes will also help care teams eliminate information silos and function more cohesively when addressing patient needs that fall outside of the medical spectrum.
  4. EMPOWER. Empower everyone (including the patient and those helping him) to get involved in creating a good outcome. One way is by providing an easy way for everyone to find and connect with the programs and services that can help them stay well. Since patient needs outnumber staff resources, facilitating patient involvement is a good way to distribute the case load. Most people want to help themselves and are willing to take the proper steps if pointed in the right direction. 
  5. Analyze the data and monitor trends. Uncovering service gaps can provide insight and drive smarter decisions within the organization. Efficient and timely social coordination improves health outcomes, as well, as patient satisfaction. 
Social factors impacting patient health is no longer a topic of discussion solely reserved for discharge planners coordinating transitions. It’s in the best interest of everyone involved in the patient’s journey to be informed and empowered to help when necessary.
Topics: Social Services access to social services care coordination

Is Social Service Coordination included in your Treatment Plans?

It’s been well documented that social factors play a significant role in people’s health.  In fact, studies show that up to 40% of a person’s overall health outcome can be attributed to things like food stability, transportation, housing, and employment.  

 

 

It’s becoming increasingly clear to providers that achieving the triple aim of better patient care, improved health outcomes and lower costs, will require more focus and better coordination around patient needs that fall outside of the healthcare setting.  New payer models are contributing to the rapid acceleration toward more patient-centered care but many are asking, is enough emphasis being placed on social determinants impacting people’s health?

Under the Affordable Care Act's Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, hospitals are fined significant penalties for repeated admissions that are deemed preventable.  The reality is that multiple readmissions are not always due to of a lack of quality care but rather social factors that are not controllable by hospitals and are not taken into consideration in penalty calculations.  Consider the diabetic who doesn’t have access to healthier foods, lacks adequate transportation to follow up appointments, or is forced to choose between basic needs; healthier food or medication?  Medication or rent?

Health care organizations that implement a standardized process for social service coordination and make it a consistent part of the patient journey will not only create direct economic benefits, it will positively affect patient engagement and satisfaction, as well.  In addition, creating a standardized process of addressing social factors hindering patient wellness allows providers to better track and report trends which ultimately leads to better business decisions.     

Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee went a step further in their efforts to address outside social factors impacting patient health by placing social workers in the ER department full time.  They realized that among their patient population, the highest utilizers of emergency room services were constantly in crisis.  They weren’t thinking about scheduling appointments and planning ahead but rather where they were going to sleep or whether they could get groceries. Over a monitored period of time, the social workers began helping patients schedule appointments to see a doctor and coordinated services such as transportation and child care services for the appointment. The results were measurable. Visits by the selected targeted group to the Aurora Sinai emergency room fell by 68 percent, from 487 to 155. Compared to four months before the program was implemented, costs fell from $1.5 million to $440,000. (Kodjak 2015). 

Equipping healthcare staff with the tools and processes to facilitate social service coordination is a win-win-win for both patients and providers, as well as, health care plans covering the costs.  It’s also a great step in shift toward patient-centered care.    

Topics: social determinants of health health care patient care

What the Search Data Can Tell Us about Community Needs

We live in an increasingly networked world that enables us to find information in seconds and even lets us do things that a few years ago seemed impossible. Want to know how well you slept? There is a device for that. Hate driving? Autonomous vehicles will be hitting the roads soon. Need help finding food or rental assistance in your area? Good luck. Using a typical search engine to find help produces page after page of disorganized information. Often times, the lists even include predatory programs that aren’t actually designed to help those in need.

With seekers having trouble even finding programs, it’s not surprising that nonprofits and governments have an incomplete view of their communities. Are residents accessing the services they need? Are the best programs being funded in the areas where they’re most needed? In many communities, nonprofits and governments cannot answer those questions with confidence.

At Aunt Bertha, we’re doing our part to help answer those questions by making social services information more accessible. We help seekers instantly find programs and services in their area. Each of those searches is logged in our system and helps us provide a snapshot for each community where we have listings. In some cases, the results are what we’d expect: spikes in searches for emergency shelter after a natural disaster. But, we’re also seeing more unexpected results: consistent searches for work programs in communities with dropping unemployment rates. Take Dallas/Fort Worth as an example. From January to May of this year, the unemployment rate steadily declined. But search data from those same months tells a different story.

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We know that additional analysis is needed before we can draw definitive conclusions, but this data provides a starting point for that further analysis to understand the why behind the search results.

Our data can also help governments and nonprofits evaluate simple supply and demand questions. Are we funding the programs that people need most? Again, using Dallas/Fort Worth as the example, we see a potential misalignment of service offerings and community needs. Housing and work consistently rank among the highest searched categories, but there aren’t that many programs available that provide those services. At the same time, we see the opposite with care and education related searches. We see lots of care and education programs, but relatively few searches for those services.

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While the data certainly does not indicate that we should divert funding one program in favor of another, it does help to tell a story about the community. We can drill deeper and look at specific zip codes to better understand the needs at a hyper-local level. This detailed view provides nonprofits and governments with invaluable insight. And, it’s that insight that we hope will lead to more targeted program development that is responsive to the community needs.   

Want to learn more about the needs in your community? Request a demo below, and we can schedule time to give you an overview.

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Topics: reporting analytics search data community needs

Coalition for Queens: Building the New Class of Software Developers in New York City

 

Over the first weekend in August Aunt Bertha was proud to be a part of a hackathon at Coalition for Queens (c4q.nyc) demonstrating the skills students in the Access Code 2.0 program have developed over the past several months.  As mentioned on the website, Access Code equips talented adults from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds with the computer programming skills and entrepreneurial training to launch careers in the tech industry.  The cohort we worked with has been learning how to program in Android, and those skills were put to the test where teams were tasked with designing, developing, and presenting a brand new Android application in only 48 hours, using the Aunt Bertha API, as well as the optional use of APIs from FourSquare, Venmo, Twilio and SendGrid.

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We enjoyed meeting with such a diverse group of eager first-time developers to talk about what information is available on the Aunt Bertha API and watching them use the data in innovative ways.   

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Every team brought something unique to the challenge of providing those in need access to information about services in their area.  Some teams focused on collecting additional information from their users to better customize the results returned while others used the Android phones to ease communications with emergency contacts when tough times hit or ensuring communication during disasters.  

Congratulations to all the teams for such a good job!

Are you in New York City and Intereseted in learning more or getting involved with the Coalition for Queens? Reach out to them - even volunteer to teach or mentor today.

Check out C4Q!

 

Topics: robin hood great partners effective non profits new york city job training hackathon

Children with Food Insecurities in the Summer

My husband is an elementary teacher in a low-income area outside of Austin, Texas.  Every year he notices that kids start to act up in his class near the end of the year and talk about how they don’t want school to end for the summer.  He believes this change in behavior is directly connected to those kids not having a stable environment outside of school, which includes not having access to food.  During the school year, low-income children have access to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP); however, many kids, parents, teachers and communities aren’t aware of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

President Harry S. Truman passed a law in 1968 that enacted the Summer Food Service Program.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for the program which makes food available to kids (under the age of 19) during the summer months.  Each individual site is implemented at the local level and any child, regardless of background, can receive a free meal.  Each location has different times and dates that they offer food.  Additionally, some of the sites may provide one meal a day, while others may provide as many as all four meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack).  The below map illustrates the number of meals served per day by location across the country:

 

SFSP

 

To find a Summer Food Service Program near you, visit Aunt Bertha and enter your zip code.

To learn more about starting a Summer Food Service Program location in your area, visit The USDA website to obtain a Summer Meals Toolkit.

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Velisia Escobar is a Senior Data Analyst who appreciates processes, order and random movie quotes (Stop looking at me swan!).

I want to help. But... where do I start?

Evolving technology in the last decade alone has allowed for information to be spread more easily, more quickly and in many more forms.  There is so much for an individual to consume.  The good, the new, and the sweet bits are fun. Who can resist watching an adorable panda cuddling next to it’s mother in Chengdu, China, or an infant be frantically rescued from the rubbles of collapsed building in Nepal by a group of dusty men! The harder facts of life are more difficult to stomach, like watching an infant get kicked around by an aggravated mother, or reading about the widespread occurrence of men with ‘nontraditional’ sexual preferences being cornered and beaten to death.  When I see these individual problems I can’t help but think to myself “I want to help. But. Where do I start?”

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Kim Nguyen, Software Quality Assurance

 As just one person, it’s easy to fall to into the habit of putting away and out of sight the bad and focus on the problem immediately in front of you, your family and your home. It’s easy to say “I’ve resolved any major insecurities in my home. My family is safe, children are good, my finances are in order and there are no imminent dangers.”  

Without a clue on where to start, sometimes we just complain about problems. We share a meme on Facebook. We sign an online petition. We get appalled. Then we watch a cat video.  But that sort of activism doesn’t fix problems. They’re still there. I’m tired of clicking like.  So again, “I want to help. But... Where do I start?”

Growing up in a large family, there was never an excuse to not pitch in. We all had access to the same limited resources.  It was simply the practical and “asian” thing to do to lend a hand.  For my sisters and I, the saying was and still is “I want to help. When or where can I start?”  For every meal, every event, every family or personal crisis my siblings and I were trained and conditioned like soldiers to resolve the issue of our specialty. The eldest was the master tamer of explosive emotions, the second eldest the master planner and practical solutions engineer, my younger sister the task master and mistress of smooth talking, I the muscle and enforcer of positive results, and my baby brother the trojan horse that will reign his arrows of cuteness on any unsuspecting agitator.  Everyone has their roles, responsibilities, and obligations. No challenge was met with defeat, thus far.  Much like my family dynamic, I sincerely believe that in a more connected world, thanks to technology, we as individuals have a moral obligation to those around us.

So what is our responsibility to the world outside our own family? Do we continue our lives, focusing on the immediate, and only giving attention to the things unforeign?

My family was fortunate. We grew up with a community of people who bent over backwards for each other. Their efforts to help a complete stranger had placed my family and myself on a path different from the one we were originally set on. Their actions allowed the lifestyle and opportunities that we have today.

With a bit of middle school teaching, a little comic book inspiration, and my roots in a community that is just that - a community - I’ve come to the following conclusion.  While I am ill-equipped to be any sort of advisor to an individual in need, I can however do my part by using my unique skills to supports those doing the real work.

For me - I found a place to start. I work at Aunt Bertha as a Quality Assurance Analyst. I’m using my skills as a master planner, practical solutions engineer, and enforcer of positive results. The only difference is that I’m using those skills a little differently now.

Aunt Bertha is not a person, but rather a group of people building tools for social workers, teachers and health care professionals advocating for families in need. By making information accessible, searchable, filterable, and analyzable we’re happy to play a small part.

Want to learn more about our team? Check out the video introduction below.

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Topics: company culture Blogging

Chris Dunkin Featured on Mostly Medicaid

Aunt Bertha's mission is to make human services information accessible to people and programs. Medicaid Managed Care providers across the country are using Aunt Bertha to help their clients find government and charitable programs to help areas of their members' lives unrelated to health.

The idea is simple. There are things that affect people's health that are unrelated to health. If someone can't pay their electricity bill during the summer in the south, it's not only stressful but can cause other medical problems. If someone can't find a ride, it's difficult to get to a follow-up doctor's appointment. Those in the medical field call these issues the Social Determinants of Health. The National Office of Disease and Health Prevention define the Social Determinants of Health pretty well in this article

Chris Dunkin, Aunt Bertha's VP of Sales, helps hospitals and medicaid managed care organizations address these issues using Aunt Betha's Enterprise Search Platform for Health Care. Today he was featured on Mostly Medicaid's Who's Who of the Medicaid Industry. 

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Check out the article on Mostly Medicaid here: http://mostlymedicaid.com/medicaid-industrys-series-chris-dunkin/.

Want to learn more about how Aunt Bertha helps Health Care providers? Request a demo below and we'd be happy to set up a quick chat to give you an overview.

 

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