More than 50 staff members from the Cook County Health’s Stroger Hospital and the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center attended Project CONNECT’s 2nd annual stakeholders event on October 30. This event was convened to present project and cost benefit analysis outcomes achieved over the last three years of service delivery to individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

Project CONNECT was created to address multiple issues related to health care seeking behaviors. As a transitional and supportive care services model implemented in 2012, the project assists eligible HIV positive patients during discharge from Stroger Hospital with access to outpatient primary care services at the CORE Center to help stabilize their health status and provide them with a medical home. HIV positive patients often cycle in an out of the Emergency Department (ED) and inpatient ward at Stroger Hospital within 30 days or less, but many of these readmissions could be prevented if patients were linked and retained in care at an outpatient clinic setting. Outcomes highlighted at the stakeholder’s event underscore the success of the project for our patients and its impact on cost savings to the health system and the larger Chicago community. Rebecca R. Roberts, MD, Director of Research at the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stroger Hospital conducted the cost benefit analysis examining costs inclusive of project implementation, operations, medications and clinic visits and benefits demonstrating cases averted, years of life saved, disability adjusted years of life saved, reduced hospital readmission costs and medication savings.

  • 521 patients enrolled & transitioned to care at the CORE Center
  • 80% – Average attendance to 1st appointment at CORE /Baseline prior to Project CONNECT – 54%
  • 8% – Hospital readmissions within 30 days at Stroger/Baseline – 15%
  • Clinical markers including CD4 and Viral Load counts on average improved dramatically indicating improved health status and a decrease in the likelihood of HIV transmission as participants reached viral suppression
  • 79 cases of HIV were averted per year/237 cases averted over 3 years
  • $30M in medication costs saved for every case averted per year/$90M in cost savings over 3 years
  • $2.3M saved by preventing hospital readmissions
  • $192M in Years of Life Saved for 90% of patients with improved, stable clinical markers
  • Benefits of Project CONNECT are 40-fold higher than costs when comparing minimum costs and benefits

From the outset, Project CONNECT staff learned very quickly that project participants needed intensive navigation and supportive services, so that they could be successfully transitioned to care at the CORE Center. This led to collaborations with external partners including The Boulevard, formerly Interfaith House and Bishop Anderson House, to address housing and spiritual support needs. Project CONNECT is currently in its 4th year of operations and planning an expansion of its services to assure linkage to CORE for all HIV positive patients admitted or engaged in the ED at Stroger Hospital.

Project CONNECT staff include Freddie Shufford, Project Director; Patricia Herrera, MD, Clinical Advisor; Blanca Lopez, Project Manager; Melanie Fritz, Project Assistant; Angelica Picado and Kathryne Gibbs; Case Managers and three Peer Navigators – Eddie Nance, Shefflon Tidwell and Rigoberto Barrera.

Project CONNECT is supported with funding awarded by the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, The Chicago Community Trust, Crown Family Philanthropies, Dr. Scholl Foundation and Polk Bros Foundation.

Questions or inquiries about Project CONNECT, please contact Blanca Lopez at (312) 572-4911 or