In keeping with our intention to make our organization as patient-centered as possible, CommunityHealth has initiated an important and exciting transition: the creation of an External Affairs team, led by our very own Laura Ciresi Starr.
Previously, as the Director of Development and Communications, Laura’s main focus was funding. Her development team chases down grants, puts together events, and stewards donations. However, in her nine years at CommunityHealth, Laura took on myriad responsibilities, including but not limited to overseeing press opportunities, redesigning the CommunityHealth brand, advocating for charitable clinics alongside the Illinois Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, and stewarding partnerships with Onward Neighborhood House and Enlace Chicago, among others.
In her new role, Laura will continue to be responsible for raising the visibility and impact of the organization through outreach, guided by a vision that prioritizes community engagement above all.
“I believe that her passion and innate talent for developing meaningful strategic relationships that benefit our patients and community is aligned perfectly with our need to deepen our community presence and engagement,” says Steph Willding, CEO. Under Laura’s guidance, the development team will join forces with the patient outreach team, including Health Education Manager Rocío Lopez Pardo, Health Education Associate Zeneida Urena, and our new Community Health Workers (CHWs), Nicolas Chavez and Lesly Diaz. The integration of donor and patient communications is a natural continuation of our efforts to be a patient-focused organization.
Furthermore, the expansion of our patient outreach team has been a deliberate response to the statistical trends that we noted over the pandemic. When analyzing data on new patient registration, we noticed an enormous spike in the early months of 2021. We soon realized that this flood of new patients coincided with our COVID vaccine pop-up events. Spending time in the communities we serve, visiting new areas of need, meeting people where they are—these aspects of the vaccine events have evolved into key tenets of CommunityHealth’s external affairs strategy.
The recent expansion of Medicaid in Illinois includes a large age group, but it still does not cover everyone. Ages 19-41 are not included in this expansion, nor are individuals in the other age groups who have income that is higher than allowed (but still eligible under our requirements). Our ability to engage with these individuals and ensure they know how to access care at CommunityHealth has never been more important. As we navigate these policy changes, we are excited for the opportunities to expand our external network and deepen our connection to the people we serve.