BCBSMA 2012 Annual Report

Corporate Citizenship

In 2012, we continued our longstanding commitment to strengthening the communities where our members and associates live and work, through strategic investments, employee volunteerism, civic leadership, and our nonprofit Foundation.

In recognition of our 75th anniversary, we awarded special $75,000 grants to four local nonprofits that promote nutrition, education,huge success and access to healthy foods for low-income families with young children: The Urban Food Initiative; Project Bread in partnership with Lynn Economic Opportunity, Inc.; Boston Natural Areas Network; and the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council's Kindergarten Initiative.

Our second annual all-company Service Day was a huge success, as our associates tallied more than 16,000 hours in volunteer work across the state. Our employee volunteer corps, known as the BlueCrew, also provided mentoring assistance throughout the year–educational mentoring and tutoring for students, and skills-based, professional mentoring that matches our associates with nonprofit organizations.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation continued to play a vital role in expanding access to health care for

low-income and vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth through its research, policy work, and grant making. The Foundation added a new category of grants in 2012, to support strategies and initiatives that will reduce health care costs while also maintaining or improving access and quality. The Brookline Community Mental Health Center was one of the first recipients. You can learn more about the Foundation's work at bluecrossmafoundation.org.

Strengthening our Nonprofit Partners

Geiger Center photo
Liz Morin with Greg DeCenzo and Michele Gerroir.

For more than 30 years, the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center has been a leader in the effort to end domestic violence and ensure that survivors receive needed assistance. The Crisis Center's two dozen staff members provide an array of services to residents of Northeastern Massachusetts, including a crisis hotline, emergency and transitional shelters, legal advocacy, and counseling. In addition, the Crisis Center provides consultation, training, and technical assistance to schools, law enforcement, and other domestic violence prevention efforts in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

"Our mission is to empower people, so they're able to live free from fear, intimidation, violence, or the threat of abuse," says Liz Morin, the Crisis Center's director of administration.

Like many small organizations, the Crisis Center doesn't have a staff member dedicated just to human resources, so Morin includes HR as one of her many responsibilities. With no formal training in the function, she was delighted when the Crisis Center was chosen to participate in a program through which our company's associates volunteer to provide free, skills-based consultation and guidance to executives or managers at local nonprofit organizations. The goal is to use our associates' business knowledge and experience to build capacity in areas that are critical to fulfilling the organization's mission.

Last year, two of our associates, Greg DeCenzo from the Workforce Relations and Compliance team and Michele Gerroir, assistant general counsel, worked with Morin on a raft of issues, including job descriptions,

Strengthening our Nonprofit Partners

employee classification, employee performance and disciplinary procedures, annual reviews, new-hire orientation, and capabilities assessments for the management team.

"Our employees are the lifeline of the organization," Morin says, "and sound HR policies make a huge difference in terms of staff satisfaction and retention. Having access to Greg and Michele's expertise and guidance gives me confidence that I'm on top of that part of my job, and it is absolutely invaluable to the Center and our employees."

Michele Gerroir sums up her experience with the program this way: "The Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center is a very small organization with limited resources, but the work it does has a far-reaching and incredibly beneficial impact.
The Center's staff members are proof that one person can make a difference; having the extraordinary opportunity to support their mission made me feel that I, too, had made a difference."

The experience of meeting the staff stands out for DeCenzo as well. "It was heartwarming and inspiring to gain a greater understanding of the work they do and the impact they have on the community."

Liz Morin has become an enthusiastic cheerleader, not only for her two mentors, but also for having similar programs replicated across the country. "I recently attended a human resources conference of nonprofit organizations, and I was surprised at how many are in similar situations," she says. "I urged them to reach out to their local
Blue Cross plans and others with compatible missions for this kind of help."

Healthy Lives for High-Risk Patients

Brookline Community Mental Health Center photo
Donna Beers makes a home visit to check in with Leyra.

When Donna and Leyra sit down together, their mutual affection is immediately apparent. From one perspective, the story of their relationship is about reducing health care costs while also improving the quality of care and the patient experience. More fundamentally, however, it is about the value of compassionate, hands-on caregiving, and problem solving for individuals who are at very high risk for a medical crisis.
Leyra has lived in the Boston area since 1995, when she left Puerto Rico and her job as a teacher to escape an abusive relationship with her ex-husband. Her grandfather lived in Lynn, and fearing for her safety, he bought plane tickets for Leyra and her four young children. She recalls, "When I walked out into Logan Airport, I thought, I feel safe. I can breathe. I'm happy!"

Her new life brought new problems, however. Along with financial struggles and periods of homelessness, she has dealt with asthma, depression, and other chronic conditions for many years. Today, she lives modestly but comfortably in a small apartment, and her greatest passion, along with her children and grandchildren, is her job at a local school.

In the spring of last year, Leyra's health took a
downward spiral. Her sick days mounted up, and by the end of the school year, she didn't know if she would be able to continue working when school resumed in the fall. She became increasingly withdrawn, anxious, and depressed.

"I had a hard, hard time," she says. "I couldn't function at all. I just stayed in my home and got more and more angry at myself." That's when she called the Brookline Community Mental Health Center for help. By the next day, the Center had set up a psychiatric evaluation, help with medications, and psychological counseling for Leyra. Then Leyra says, "I found Susan and Donna!"

Susan Lax, NP, and Donna Beers, BSN, work in the Center's new Healthy Lives program, which is designed to serve low-income

Healthy Lives for High-Risk Patients

residents of Brookline and Boston who have multiple chronic medical and mental health conditions. In 2012, the Center received a three-year, $375,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation to help develop and operate the program, which focuses on a population of patients who are often heavy users of health care services, but who also experience very poor health outcomes.

For example, Donna helped coordinate Leyra's medical and behavioral health care; connected her to the community's safety net program for help with rent payments and food assistance; drove her to her doctor's office; and helped her reapply for her lapsed health insurance. She sat in on Leyra's appointments to make sure Leyra understood her treatment plan and medications, and, as Leyra progressed, invited
her to join a group of patients who meet weekly with Susan Lax.

In the group, Leyra says that she made new friends and learned from others' experiences. "We talked about how to control your anxiety and how to be an advocate for yourself, and we shared ideas about different kinds of healthy foods and exercise," she says. "I recognized that a lot of people are struggling even more than me."

Today, Leyra's pulmonary function is excellent, and her other chronic conditions are under control as well. She is sleeping better, eating better, and managing her anxiety, plus she is back at work. Asked what advice she would give others in her situation, she responded quickly and forcefully, "Request help, don't be closed, don't turn away, tell everything you feel,
but stay focused on what is most important. I was impatient with myself because I wanted quick results; now I realize that recovery is a process."

Over the next three years, the Healthy Lives program is expected to grow from about 25 patients to about 200, according to the Center's Clinical Director, Henry White, M.D. "The Blue Cross Foundation is a great partner," he says. "Their support of innovation and local solutions has allowed us to hire staff, develop a pilot program, and bring our program to scale. We want to show that a small team with the right skills can use fairly simple interventions to help very sick and costly patients improve their health status and reduce their overall use of services."