Due to the increased need for access to social determinants of health resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, Highmark Inc. is providing free, open access to an online social care network, Aunt Bertha, which serves as a referral tool for urgent needs. Aunt Bertha connects people to resources that can assist with domains such as housing, utilities, medical supplies, food, government benefits and legal services, and is available to all members and patients served across Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia.

“In this critical time of need, we sought the opportunity to fast-track the development of our Aunt Bertha platform to reach those who need access to food, housing and unemployment resources immediately,” said Brian Rinker, market president, eastern Pennsylvania, Highmark Health, in a news release. “Our aim is to provide a more comprehensive, confidential and time-efficient referral service than traditional methods our patients and members may currently be seeking.”

Highmark has been working to launch Aunt Bertha but accelerated the process because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent social needs of the community.

Thousands of nonprofits and social care providers serve their communities, but for many, navigating the system to get help can be difficult, time consuming and frustrating, especially during a time of heightened confusion and stress. Aunt Bertha allows users to find nearby community benefit organizations (CBOs)—making it easier for people to access social services in their neighborhoods, for nonprofits to coordinate their efforts, and for healthcare providers to integrate social care into their work.

The Aunt Bertha directory contains geographic-specific information on social service agencies and CBOs across the United States. COVID-19 specific resources also will be listed on the Aunt Bertha site. Once a zip code is entered, online users can filter for specific needs. There are no income restraints or financial cost to use Aunt Bertha. In addition to public access, providers, social workers and care coordinators across the Highmark Health enterprise can access information and recommend services.

“Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing people all across the country join together to help their neighbors navigate this stressful time,” said Aunt Bertha Founder and CEO Erine Gray, in the release. “We’re honored to be partnering with Highmark, and we continue to be impressed with their innovative approaches to helping their members and patients.”

Aunt Bertha can be accessed by visiting the Medical and Community Resources page at HighmarkAnswers.com.

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