PHNCI and the Center for Sharing Public Health Services (CSPHS) are supporting 10 collaborations’ implementation efforts of innovative multi-sector partnerships between governmental public health, healthcare, and social service organizations, along with the engagement of their communities, with the ultimate goal of aligning the three sectors’ work to improve population health, well-being, and equity for all. Collaboration and alignment efforts are underway while the grantees are in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and as they determine how best to work together, how their systems can and are supporting them, and how to continue to focus on equity.

From agencies offering mini-grants directly to community members with local ideas and solutions to improve mental well-being and housing stability to agencies stepping in to assist food banks and restaurants with meal delivery, cross-sector partnerships are especially important now, with many relying on each other to meet the needs of all communities impacted by the pandemic. In this blog series, stories of innovative approaches to address needs unearthed by the COVID-19 pandemic will be shared in the hopes that other communities can learn from and possibly replicate those efforts.


A human service organization’s ability to pivot quickly has determined its survivability during the COVID-19 crisis and has formed a model for operationalizing collaborative ideals and tenets. Early in the pandemic, Better Health Together realized they could link arms with collaborative partners or try to accomplish the mountain of work in isolation – they chose the former.

Program Development

Healthcare and human service organizations often lack the administrative bandwidth and department specialization required for swift mobilization of resources. Together, working in a cross-agency and cross-sector capacity, collaboratives can be the lifeline during these unpredictable times. Put into practice, Excelsior Wellness, along with Better Health Together collaborative members, shared:

  • Policies and procedures related to telework.
  • Telehealth consent documentation.
  • Step-by-step manuals to deploy telemedicine technology.
  • Cross-agency workgroups for Cares Act funding.
  • Federal Communications Commission application support.
  • Group purchasing power to procure PPE, technology, and infrastructure.
  • Collective legislative advocacy for specific inclusion of non-profits with less than 500 employees during Cares Act congressional deliberations.


Better Health Together’s networked improvement community ensured rapid cycle improvement across organizations. Leveraging local community investment across a broad spectrum of providers created opportunities that would otherwise not be available, which resulted in minimal disruption to patient care. Adaptation and swift implementation of regulatory changes and allowances guaranteed the preservation of administrative capacity to focus on their patient/individual participant, while other members of the collaborative were tracking and attending meetings related to changes.

Additionally, multiple cross-sector organizations realized the benefits of one IT/IS team to re-code and restructure billing and revenue cycle management configurations, accomplished within 72 hours of the Washington state stay-at-home order. It is prudent, maybe even mandatory, that community-based organizations who desire to maintain autonomy and independence through tough economic times will realize the time and cost savings by strategically increasing their participation in collaboratives.

Lessons Learned

This pandemic has stress tested and proven that local community providers, in collaboration and properly networked, form the foundation of a community-responsive health services delivery system. Better Health Together’s experience is that collaboratives can thrive and affirm their value in reducing costs, increasing access, and improving outcomes.

Call to Action

Do you have a COVID-19 innovation story or message to share? PHNCI would like to hear about your efforts! Specifically:

  • We are looking for stories about health departments working innovatively with communities to address COVID-19.
  • We are looking for messages that have worked for you about the role and value of public health and health departments now and into the future.

Complete this form to share a story and/or messages, including any applicable images and videos. Relevant stories will be posted to our website and shared through PHNCI communication mechanisms. Messages will be grouped together and shared as a crowd-sourced message map.