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Portland area nonprofits kick off new social health network

Thrive Local will address unmet social needs, including food, housing, and transportation.


 More than 300 representatives from social services agencies in Oregon and southwest Washington gathered to learn about a new community network that will connect health and social services providers across the region to deliver integrated care.

Thrive Local, first announced in June 2019, will be the most comprehensive, far-reaching network of its kind, creating connections between health care providers and social services agencies to address pressing social needs such as housing, food, safety, transportation, and utilities.

The network, an initiative of Kaiser Permanente and technology company Unite Us, will be built in close partnership with nonprofit and government agencies and other health systems and health centers, with the goal of creating a unified community-wide resource that can be replicated across the nation.

“Coordinated care organizations were designed to respond to the needs of the community in new and innovative ways. This effort presents us with an opportunity to connect with our partners at the forefront of this work,” said Eric C. Hunter, CEO of CareOregon and board member of Health Share of Oregon. “To address our community’s biggest challenges, we need to start with whole-person care that includes addressing social needs. This new network is a much-needed step toward better connecting people with the resources they need to be healthy.”

In her remarks, Ruth Williams-Brinkley, regional president for Kaiser Permanente in the Northwest, shared that while Kaiser Permanente has been taking steps to help members with their social needs, it has become clear that systemic change would require the participation of the whole community. Kaiser Permanente began seeking a solution that could be made available widely, across many kinds of organizations and settings, that would also help clinical staff understand what happened to patients after they left their care.

“Our research tells us that in the past year, unmet social needs were a barrier to health for 1 in 4 people living in Oregon and southwest Washington. In addition, the vast majority of people — over 90% — want their medical provider to ask about their social needs and connect them with resources,” Williams-Brinkley said. “That’s why we’re here today — we know things must change, and it isn’t enough that we treat only medical issues. In partnership with the agencies that are on the front lines of meeting social needs every day, we believe Thrive Local will help us improve the health of not only our members, but the entire community.”

Kaiser Permanente’s research also found that 13% of Oregon and southwest Washington residents prioritized paying for food or rent over seeing a doctor, and 11% couldn’t go to the doctor or pick up medication because they lacked transportation.

“Nearly 15% of Oregonians have insufficient amounts of affordable, nutritious food; about 200,000 of them are children. We have one of the highest rates of homelessness among individuals and among families with kids,” said Imelda Dacones, MD, president and chief executive officer, Northwest Permanente. “We, physicians and clinicians, need partnerships with our community social services providers to address circumstances like these — social needs that impact our physical, mental, and emotional health.”

In addition to being integrated into Kaiser Permanente’s electronic health record system, where health care workers will have ready access to a directory of social services agencies, Thrive Local will allow health care providers to make referrals directly to community organizations and then track those referrals via the Unite Us technology platform to confirm that patient needs have been met. The platform will be made available to community-based organizations at no cost.

Unite Us has deep expertise in building coordinated care networks of health and social services providers and will work with participating organizations to integrate the Thrive Local network into their existing workflows.  

The new Thrive Local network will begin rolling out this year in the Portland area, and agencies will be added to the network on an ongoing basis. Within 3 years, it will be available to all of Kaiser Permanente’s 12.3 million members and the 68 million people in the communities Kaiser Permanente serves across the nation.

Organizations interested in participating in the Thrive Local network can visit:

About Kaiser Permanente 

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 12.3 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. 

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