News Detail

Community Health Program Builds Trust, Momentum


In its first three active months, community health initiative Healthy Jacksonville has improved quality of life for more than two dozen families living in the program’s targeted neighborhood in northeast Jacksonville.

And word is spreading.

“Clients are saying to us, ‘I want you to meet my friend,’” said Sarah Karraker, LCSW, supervisor of social services and case coordination at Passavant Area Hospital, who oversees the Healthy Jacksonville Community Health Worker program. “We’re adding clients who are referred to us by other clients.”

Passavant, SIU School of Medicine and MacMurray College are partners in Healthy Jacksonville, a program launched in September to increase access to healthcare using a holistic approach for at-risk city residents. The program opened to clients in January.

Twenty-nine people are currently enrolled in the program, which, in addition to increasing access to healthcare, aims to address social and environmental issues that impact health such as unemployment and violent crime and access to transportation, housing and food.

Community Health Workers Andrea Phelps and Erika Jennings, along with program intern Nichole Hester, coordinate the bulk of direct client care, which varies from person to person and family to family.

The Community Health Workers are able to help individuals and families make positive connections to existing health and social programs and agencies,” said Karraker.

Help extended to clients since February includes:

  • 21 appointments made with a primary care physician
  • 19 referrals to a specialty service/physician (such as a podiatrist)
  • 12 appointments scheduled with mental health services at Memorial Behavioral Health in Jacksonville or the Center for Psychiatric Health on the Passavant campus
  • 10 appointments scheduled with a dentist
  • Referrals to various social service agencies for assistance with issues involving transportation, housing and food security, among others
  • Referral to the MOSAIC Project at Jacksonville Middle School to address mental health in children/teens

Looking to summer, Karraker said her team will focus on children in the neighborhood. At-risk children tend to be most vulnerable to hunger and other issues during the months school is not in session. Examples of assistance community health workers might provide include helping a parent secure financial assistance so a child may attend camp or connecting a family with a local group that provides daily meals during the summer.

For some Healthy Jacksonville clients, the community health worker is “the one person who keeps advocating for them,” said Karraker, “the one person who is not driving off.”

It is consistent support for the client that factors into what Karraker considers to be at the heart of Healthy Jacksonville: Trust.

“It’s the hardest thing to get,” she said. “But as we gain and keep that trust, that is how we will continue to grow Healthy Jacksonville.”

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In-person interview/story/photo opportunity Highlighting the program’s emphasis on partnership and coordination with local groups and social service agencies, Healthy Jacksonville will team up with the Jacksonville Rotary Club to distribute food to those in need at 6 p.m. April 9 at Lincoln Elementary School.

Karraker, Phelps and Jennings and Hester will all be present at the event.

Healthy Jacksonville is supported by the Passavant Area Hospital Foundation. To make a donation to benefit Healthy Jacksonville, call 217-479-5575 or email