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Barriers to Access (Part 1)

Marguerite Jimenez

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Headwaters Foundation was established in 2017 with the goal of improving health equity in Western Montana. One of the ways we are doing this is by supporting grantee partners who are working on upstream solutions and reducing barriers that prevent people from living their healthiest lives. Barriers to access can come in all different forms. Transportation might be a barrier for some. If you don’t have transportation to get you where you need to go to access services, that’s a barrier. Technology can also be a barrier. If applying for social assistance programs requires internet access or know-how, individuals who don’t have easy access or use of the internet will experience barriers to getting the assistance and support they need. Inadequate information about services or how to utilize them is often a significant barrier and can make the process of applying for things like health insurance or public assistance programs extremely challenging.

But just as barriers are created, they can be reduced or removed. Community organizations and non-profits in our state are doing all sorts of things to remove or reduce barriers to access. Sometimes the most basic thing, like providing easily digestible information and application support can go a long way towards removing barriers and helping us move towards achieving greater health equity in Montana. One organization doing this important barrier removal work is the Montana Primary Care Association through their Cover Montana initiative. While not a grantee partner we are inspired by their work every day.

Individuals looking to access affordable health insurance options often must navigate complicated systems, long wait times, limited opportunities to get help in person, as well as changing requirements and eligibility guidelines. The Montana Primary Care Association is working to reduce the barriers around accessing coverage by providing support through Cover Montana. Cover Montana offers a one-stop-shop for resources and support. It provides information on the different options available, provider locators, local options if you need support navigating the process, quick and uncomplicated ways to determine which options you are eligible for, a staffed hotline to call if you need additional help (side note, it took less than a minute to reach someone when I called to learn more), and a range of other easy to understand instructions for how to move towards the goal of gaining access to health insurance coverage.

This is just one example, but there are so many others that give me hope. Organizations throughout our state are doing incredible things to support their communities and fellow Montanans.  These organizations work every day to remove barriers to access so that all Montanans can live their healthiest lives. Getting to learn about some of these amazing problem-solvers and barrier-removers is the best part of my job. It is these organizations and all they do, that make me hopeful about the future of children and families in our state.

What are some of the biggest barriers to access you see in your community? Which barrier-breaking organizations inspire you and make you hopeful? We at Headwaters would love to hear from you and share some of your examples in this blog series, on social media, or in our newsletter. Please share your stories. Email us at: contact@headwatersmt.org