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About a dozen New London County social service and health organizations have enrolled at least one staff member in a new training program to help uninsured or underinsured residents purchase health insurance coverage through the state's health insurance exchange scheduled to begin operating Oct. 1.
"They'll be at their community groups, going into neighborhoods, putting up fliers at coffee shops," said Kate Gervais, manager of the Navigator and Assister Program of Access Health CT, the state agency setting up the exchanges being created under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Gervais said the assisters are halfway through a 40-hour training program, which will conclude next month with a certification exam. They are learning about community outreach techniques, privacy protection and the new health insurance exchange portal, among other topics. Each organization sending a staff member for the training will receive $6,000 toward the salary of the assister for the initial insurance enrollment period of Oct. 1 through March 31.
Local organizations participating in the training are the Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut; Ledge Light Health District; Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Health Services; the NAACP of Norwich; the Uncas Health District; Safe Futures; the Thames Valley Council for Community Action; the New London Homeless Hospitality Center; and the Old Saybrook Social Services Department. Also receiving the training are one staff member each from two independent pharmacies, the Medicine Shoppe in New London, and Greeneville Pharmacy in Norwich.
Gervais said the assisters will work both at their own organizations and in the larger community, and will wear photo ID badges. They will be able to enroll people in insurance programs on laptop computers with enhanced security features to protect privacy, she added.
"The program is designed to reach people where they live," she said, adding that the assisters have been trained in cultural sensitivity, and many are bilingual.
In addition to the assisters, Access Health CT has also assigned one organization as "navigator" for each of six regions of the state. The Eastern Connecticut Area Health Education Center in Willimantic has been named the navigator for New London and Middlesex counties.
"The navigators will do outreach to mayors, first selectmen, superintendents of schools about the health exchange," Gervais said.
They will also provide notices about the program to be sent home with schoolchildren, and will meet with community groups to publicize the exchange, she said. In addition to regionwide outreach projects, the navigators will also support the assisters in their regions.