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Cary Medical Center collaborates on new screen and intervene initiative

AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine — According to the 2017 Hunger Pains, Widespread Food Insecurity Threatens Maine’s Future Research Report 15.8 % (nearly 203,000) Mainers are food insecure, meaning they lack regular access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life.  This includes 1 in 4 children.  Hunger in Aroostook County is more common then we may think, 17.1% of Aroostook County residents are food insecure.  

Power of Prevention and Cary Medical Center have collaborated to implement a screening process during the inpatient discharge interview to identify patients struggling with food insecurity to help people in need find the food resources they need. Patients are asked a two-question screen that evaluates if a person has run out of food or has struggled with the ability to purchase food in the past twelve months. Cary’s electronic medical record was updated to include the two food insecurity questions and staff members were trained about the questions and resources available.

“Identifying our patients at time of discharge who may be food insecure can be a significant benefit in preventing the patient from being readmitted to the hospital due to poor nutrition which may impact prescribed medications or other health conditions,” said Sherry Wright who leads Cary’s Case Management and Quality Improvement programs.  “Once we learn that a patient may be experiencing food insecurity we provide them with an Aroostook County Food Resource Guide, and refer them to one of our case managers.  We can then link the patient to free food resources close to their home.  We may also help the patient access other needed services.”  

The screening and intervention program is part of an effort to link healthcare providers and community organizations to address health needs. The Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH) is engaging clinical providers to conduct regular screenings to identify people impacted by food insecurity and connect them to food resources and a strengthened food security network.  The linkage project is supported through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, EMHS and the Partnerships to Improve Community Health.

“Health care providers are stepping up to help individuals and families struggling with food insecurity,” said Kim Parent, Community Outreach Coordinator for Power of Prevention, who is working with multiple health organizations to advance the clinical linkages program.  “The willingness of Cary Medical Center and other organizations to adopt specific strategies to address these kinds of basic needs is a great benefit to those most vulnerable here in Aroostook County.”

To learn more about this program or to obtain copies of the Food Resource Guides, contact Kim Parent at 540-3659 or email kimparent@carymed.org.

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