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Better Together: Collaborating for Family Resilience with Sarasota Memorial Health Care System


The Better Together series highlights some of our most dynamic partnerships across Unite Us’ first decade. For over 10 years, we have been expanding what’s possible, bringing sectors together to achieve whole-person health for every member in our communities. Hear from those partners here and learn how you can join us to unlock the potential of your community.

The first 1,000 days of life are a critical period of rapid brain development that can influence a baby’s health over a lifetime. Drivers of health such as poverty, homelessness, substance use disorders, and race- and place-based inequities place added stress on children that increase the risk for poor health outcomes. 

First 1,000 Days Suncoast, a regional initiative spearheaded by the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation and led by Sarasota Memorial Health Care System (SMHCS), was launched in 2018 to reduce systemic barriers to health for young families. It includes over 80 organizations that work together to support family resilience through cross-sector collaboration. 

One Client’s Story

“Lana,” a mother of two from Manatee County, had reached her breaking point. With an unstable living situation, no job, and no support, she did not know where to seek help. Thankfully, Lana met Tina Wilson, First 1,000 Days Navigator who sent referrals to appropriate services through Unite Us.

In a matter of months, Lana secured a job and received essential baby items for her children; assistance with transportation to doctors’ appointments for herself and her children; food; parenting education and support; and after a long road of unstable housing and homelessness, Lana now has a safe place she and her children can call home. Lana was extremely grateful for how First 1,000 Days, SMHCS, and Unite Us changed her life.

“I could just cry. I have come a long way and now my children are happier and more joyful.” – Lana, Mother of Two

(SMHCS) is a public community healthcare system with multiple campuses, clinics, and outpatient centers. Magnet-designated for the fourth time and among America’s 50 Best Hospitals, Sarasota Memorial offers a comprehensive level of care. Women and children’s services include: 

  • Childbirth education 
  • Labor and delivery unit:
    • High-risk antepartum patients 
    • Mother and baby unit 
    • Level III neonatal intensive care unit 
    • Maternal-neonatal transport
    • Pediatric unit 

SMHCS employs a small team that leads the operations of a regional initiative called First 1,000 Days Suncoast. Since 2020, SMHCS has partnered with Unite Us to provide resources and enhance care coordination for the community, resulting in support for families who urgently need it. After the initial implementation of Unite Us, Women and Children’s Services case managers reported an average time savings of four hours per week in coordinating services for families. This new efficiency could potentially equate to $7,000 in cost savings per case manager per year. 

For this series, we asked Sarasota Memorial’s Chelsea Arnold about our work together and their vision of how cross-sector collaboration creates lasting change for pregnant and parenting people.

As we reflect on a decade bringing sectors together through technology to ensure people’s needs are met, what do you think has changed the most for your organization since the start of our partnership in 2020?

Unite Us implementation began in SMHCS Women and Children’s Services through the First 1,000 Days Suncoast initiative. The positive results for this population prompted expansion throughout the entire healthcare system. SMHCS is dedicated to supporting the health of its community by connecting every patient with nonprofit, government, and healthcare partners. 

How does Sarasota Memorial think about or approach collaboration with other sectors? What are the benefits to the parents and families you serve and to your mission?

Serving the largest volume of underserved families and pregnant individuals in the Suncoast region and acting as the only public community healthcare system, SMHCS has the unique opportunity to ensure no one falls through the cracks in getting connected with care. Dedicated to supporting these families, SMHCS is the backbone organization of First 1,000 Days Suncoast. A devoted team within the Women and Children’s Division leads the operations of the initiative, which comprises over 80 partner organizations within the tri-county area. First 1,000 Days works collaboratively with government, healthcare, and nonprofit partners to address complex systemic issues, reduce persistent and pervasive disparities, and enhance preventative measures. 

Since the local Unite Us launch, SMHCS has seamlessly connected pregnant and postpartum individuals and pediatric patients with nonprofit partner agencies who can address social, medical, and mental health needs. Using lived experience and Unite Us data, First 1,000 Days Suncoast is working collaboratively with foundations and local leaders to address complex barriers to health and social care. 

This cross-sector collaboration has been a powerful way to come up with innovative solutions.  Using individual stories and marrying in the voices of families with their own lived experiences ensures we are building something that is effective, sustainable, and valuable.

Are there any upcoming programs or initiatives related to drivers of health and community health at Sarasota Memorial that you are excited about?

Multi-sector data, including Unite Us Insights Dashboards, have been used to identify community barriers, capacity concerns, and gaps in services—all with an emphasis on health for all. Understanding these system-wide issues has assisted with the allocation of resources and the development of innovative programs and interventions to assist high-risk families. 

In addition to screening all pregnant patients for drivers of health needs and postpartum follow-up wellness calls, many innovative community programs have been created through First 1,000 Days Suncoast. This includes the development of a Perinatal Mental Health Coordination Hub and Family Navigation program. Both programs support families outside of the hospital walls, connecting parents and caregivers with resources and providing support prior to a crisis.

Looking another ten years into the future, what is your biggest hope for cross-sector collaboration to improve community health?

Our hope is that by using a solution like Unite Us, coupled with lived experience and our robust partnerships, we can build effective and innovative programs to address barriers and location-based service needs.

What thoughts would you share with Unite Us leadership as they look out on the next 10 years?

Your organization has started a movement which will transform the way we look at healthcare.

Our current evaluation of drivers or health referrals sent through the Unite Us Platform and its impact on healthcare utilization will help healthcare systems understand return on investment in placing time, effort, and funding towards social care coordination infrastructure as a standard of care. Using this valuable data, leadership can also better dissect inequitable health outcomes, identify shifts in social service needs, partner with community agencies to address capacity concerns, and develop innovative projects and programs to improve community health.

About Dr. Chelsea Arnold, DNP, APRN, FNP-bc
Dr. Chelsea Arnold is Manager of First 1,000 Days Suncoast at Sarasota Memorial Health Care System. Prior to her current role, Dr. Arnold worked as a nurse practitioner, where she saw firsthand the struggles families faced navigating services in the community. From her education and experience, she knows how important the early years are for a child’s development—and that connecting families with resources is key to foster resilience. She is currently conducting research with SMHCS and Unite Us leaders on the impact of social care coordination on healthcare utilization, parental stress, and familial protective factors. 

Watch our webinar, Meeting Mothers Where They Are: A Community and Person-Centered Approach to Care, to hear more from Dr. Chelsea Arnold on how Sarasota Memorial Health Care System and Unite Us are working together to meet mothers where they are when they need it most.

Interested in learning more about how to bring Unite Us to your organization?

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About Unite Us

Unite Us is the nation’s leading software company bringing sectors together to improve the health and well-being of communities. We drive the collaboration to identify, deliver, and pay for services that impact whole-person health. Through Unite Us’ national network and software, community-based organizations, government agencies, and healthcare organizations are all connected to better collaborate to meet the needs of the individuals in their communities.