Community Voices panel at the NCCARE360 Regional Impact Summit in Buncombe County. Panelists pictured from left to right: Vaughn Crawford- Unite Us, Charlene Rumfelt – WNCCHS, Amanda Irvin – BCHHS Public Health, and Ayana Simon – FHLI/NCCARE360

Community-led convenings are beacons for collaboration, bringing together organizations with shared goals to form and strengthen meaningful partnerships that drive positive change.

Last week, more than 30 organizations in western North Carolina gathered in Asheville, NC, for the NCCARE360 Regional Impact Summit hosted by Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministries (ABCCM), Vaya Health Systems, and Buncombe County government. Organizations came together to review community needs data, receive platform training, and engage in peer discussion about common challenges, potential solutions, and significant benefits to collaboration around utilization of the NCCARE360 platform.

“Connection is important, especially now” -Stacie Turpin Saunders- Deputy Director/Section Chief, Local and Community Support, Division of Public Health, NC Department of Health and Human Services

Victoria Reichard, Buncombe County Behavioral Health Manager, helped kick off the event by reviewing a brief history of NCCARE360, acknowledging that some organizations in attendance had to pause in their onboarding or utilization of the NCCARE360 network largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she encouraged them to consider today be the day they jump back in. Throughout the event, she and other hosts emphasized the importance of working together to ensure the continued success of the program, and that every connection is efficient and meaningful. “If you’ve signed on recently, you may think the network isn’t as robust as you thought it would be, but that’s why we’re here. Let’s make music together,” Victoria said.

Victoria Reichard, Buncombe County Behavioral Health Manager

The overall message of the summit was the importance of having community buy-in for the NCCARE360 network. Panelists who ranged from new users to experienced users to administrators of the program discussed the benefits of  whole-community cooperation, emphasizing that more participation allows more organizations to leverage the information they receive when everyone collectively uses the system to send referrals. This not only helps network users connect clients to services, but it also helps the collective community identify and then communicate crucial gaps to funders, as well as to think strategically about where to apply existing resources until additional ones become available.

“[When] everyone has access to the data, they can collaborate to write grants and receive more funding.” -Brandon Wilson, Chief Operating Officer, Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry

While fostering partnerships among community organizations is crucial for effective referral management, relying solely on personal connections may inadvertently limit client access to services based on the referrer’s acquaintances. The host emphasized that NCCARE360 provides a more equitable approach to linking clients to the resources they need because utilizing a shared technology like NCCARE360 ensures that every client has an equal opportunity for their needs to be addressed by partner agencies, regardless of the referrer’s level of influence or connections.

Panelists also shared that despite a heavier lift in the beginning when their organizations were onboarding, the platform improved their workflows by freeing up their time and providing instant notification of referral status instead of having to spend countless hours making and waiting for phone calls.

“In the beginning there is a heavier lift to get everything set up and going, then after you’re up and running and have workflows configured, it is much easier” – Charlene Rumfelt, Western North Carolina Community Health Services

Community-led events like this one instill a sense of ownership and empowerment among participants, fostering long-term commitment to shared goals. Our aim is for participants to become more invested in the NCCARE360 network and their community outcomes through increased active engagement. We hope this intrinsic motivation fosters ongoing collaboration and enduring partnerships, driving continuous improvement beyond specific events.

This event brought together organizations to address complex challenges and identify benefits of NCCARE360. By fostering dialogue, partnership, and collective action, communities are paving the way for transformative change. As we navigate an increasingly interconnected world, we will continue to recognize the pivotal role of these community-led initiatives in building resilient, inclusive communities where collaboration thrives.

Key takeaways we learned from community leaders about the importance of active community collaboration and participation in NCCARE360:

  • Collaboration creates a more robust network that ensure organizations can connect their clients to resources
  • Collaboration allows organizations to identify gaps that can be communicated to funders
  • Collaboration helps organizations make more strategic decisions about where to apply existing resources
  • Collaboration ensures that resource allocation is more equitable
  • Despite a “heavier lift” in the beginning when organizations are onboarding to NCCARE360, workflows tend to improve because the platform frees up staff time

About NCCARE360

NCCARE360 is the result of a strong public-private partnership between the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation (FHLI). NCCARE360 is integral to DHHS’s mission is to improve the health, safety, and well-being of all North Carolinians. The NCCARE360 implementation team includes United Way of North Carolina, NC 211, Unite Us, and Expound Decision Systems.