The Cook County Health’s (CCH) Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center was recently awarded a two year grant from The Chicago Community Trust’s (Trust) Rose Bernice Charitable Trust to support care coordination services for HIV positive patients through CORE’s Project CONNECT. The grant, which runs through January 2018, provides the CORE Center $110,000 in funding in its first year and will be managed by The CORE Foundation.

“We are enormously grateful for the support of The Chicago Community Trust,” said Dr. David Schwartz, Chair, Infectious Diseases, CCH.  “Their continued partnership will help us provide care to persons with HIV and AIDS who are not accessing critical health services, thereby preventing unnecessary illness, hospitalizations and death and reducing transmission of HIV to others.”

Project CONNECT, a transitional care coordination program, was implemented in 2012 to help stabilize the health status of HIV patients. The program focuses on HIV positive individuals, who are newly diagnosed, have not engaged in care or have discontinued HIV care, and who have experienced an unplanned hospitalization or accessed care in an emergency room or non-HIV-related clinic within CCH.  Enrolled patients receive intensive case management and peer navigation services to interrupt cycling in and out of the ER and hospitalization. Once transitioned to outpatient services at the CORE Center, access and adherence to care is easier to achieve in a patient-centered medical home clinic setting.

Over the last four years, more than 700 HIV positive patients have been enrolled in Project CONNECT. This year’s grant funding from the Trust will support Project CONNECT in hiring a new project associate and two full-time peer navigators to expand care coordination services. With this expansion, Project CONNECT will offer personalized assistance to the more than 800 patients admitted to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital’s HIV inpatient service each year.

An analysis of the first three years of operations (2012 – 2014) showed that Project CONNECT’s care coordination dramatically improved participants’ immune function and suppression of HIV, improved their health status and decreased the risk of their transmitting HIV to others.