WHP Profile

The Times They Are A-Changing: WHP Executive Director Ellen Rabinowitz Retires

Ellen, 2001.

Ellen, 2001.

Before the Washtenaw Health Plan was created in 2001, there was the Washtenaw County Health Care program, which began in 1995 and was run by the Washtenaw County Health Department. Who better than an urban planner to plan a brand new program? Ellen Rabinowitz, the WHP Executive Director, has managed the Washtenaw Health Plan from its inception as a program of the health department to its metamorphosis into a nonprofit. [Read more about the history and development of the WHP here.]

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Five years ago, Ellen added the job of Health Officer for the Washtenaw County Health Department to her position as the WHP Executive Director. While some people might have left one big job to take another big job, Ellen wanted to stay connected to the WHP—her first (work) love. And now, after working for Washtenaw County for over 30 years, Ellen is retiring. [And as she retires, two people will take her job! Jeremy Lapedis will become the WHP Executive Director and Jimena Loveluck will be the WCHD Health Officer.]

Ellen’s vision, as described in 2010, was simple: “We want to serve the most vulnerable members of our community, and we want to expand healthcare access to all.”

We want to serve the most vulnerable members of our community, and we want to expand healthcare access to all.
— Ellen Rabinowitz

Nearly 10 years later, a lot has changed. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, the work of the WHP changed dramatically. Many more people were eligible for Medicaid, Marketplace, or employer insurance—but low-income individuals still need help accessing services. And the work of the WHP has expanded—into not only helping people access health care, but also into case management, training, and emergency room diversion.

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As Ellen noted at her retirement party, “I have been so lucky in my career to be surrounded by the most dedicated, passionate staff. I’ve tried to lay out a vision of health for all, and then I’ve tried to get out of the way and let the staff do their work. And boy have they done an amazing job! Thank you to the WHP staff. They changed the name from WHP—Washtenaw Health Plan—to WHP: We Help People—because that’s their approach. That’s their ethic. No problem too big or too small. They will do what it takes to get our clients everything they need.”

One of Ellen’s last acts? Making sure that the WHP has a strategic plan to guide us in the next few years. And although we will miss her, we know she will continue to do good work in the community. In Ellen’s own words: “There is still so much work to do, for all of us, to create the kind of community we all believe in. A community where everyone has a fair and just opportunity to achieve optimal health and well-being. So, like I’ve been saying, you have not heard the last of me. I’m leaving full of gratitude for the opportunity I’ve had to work at the WHP and Washtenaw County, the opportunity to work with all of you.”

Ellen with WHP staff, 2006.

Ellen with WHP staff, 2006.

Ellen Rabinowitz—the feeling is mutual. Good luck, and may you be blessed with good health and exciting opportunities in the years to come.

—Ruth Kraut




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WHP Staff Profile: Krista Nordberg

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Meet our Queen of Enrollment and Outreach!

Have a policy question about Medicaid? Need to know the best way to make sure an entire family has health care? Want to understand the difference between QMB and SLMB, or SSI and SSDI? The go-to person in the WHP office is Krista Nordberg. 

Krista Nordberg has spent the last 25 years working as an advocate for people's rights through the legal system as a lawyer and legal advocate.  She has provided legal representation and assistance for low-income clients in the areas of housing, consumer and family law.  As the Assistant Director of the Counsel Advocacy Law Line she supervised a team of attorneys who performed legal intake services, case reviews and advice for 12,000 clients per year.  While working for Legal Services of South Central Michigan (LSSCM), Krista worked as a Staff Attorney (Ann Arbor) and Managing Attorney (Lansing).  

Since 2007, Krista has been the Director of Enrollment and Advocacy Services at the Washtenaw Health Plan.  She has trained and nurtured various staff members and AmeriCorps Community Resource Navigators (for example, Haley Haddad, Amber Wells, Michael Randall and Will Cheatham), all of whom have progressed in their careers with a strong sense of advocacy. 

Since joining the WHP as an AmeriCorps member, Krista has acted as a phenomenal mentor, showing me how important it is to be passionate about your work. Krista continues to be inspirational as I build my career and daily I strive to be as kind and dedicated as her.
— Haley Haddad, Americorps 2012-2013
Krista rocks the orange safety vest as she has people check in at a fire safety drill. 

Krista rocks the orange safety vest as she has people check in at a fire safety drill. 

As our Queen, I mean Director, Krista leads the fight for healthcare coverage for all through the Washtenaw Health Plan. Krista is known for sharing enrollment policy updates, answering questions from case managers across the county, providing leadership and collaborating with Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for Medicaid enrollment and advocacy,  leading a staff trained as Certified Application Counselors for the Marketplace, and--in general--spreading the message that healthcare matters. 

Krista is a once in a lifetime kinda boss. One that takes you in and adopts you, coaches you and gets you ready to fly. I owe so much to my experience under her leadership and I am a better public servant because of it.
— Michael Randall, Americorps 2014
Krista and her daughters, Lucy and Sally.

Krista and her daughters, Lucy and Sally.

Krista has won the Washtenaw County Manager of the Year, the NAACP Distinguished Lillian D. Wald Civil Rights Award and she was a Commissioner on the Human Relations Commission for City of Ypsilanti.  But she doesn't want you to know about those awards.  Awards, in her opinion, are not as important as people getting healthcare, human rights and justice! 

And she dances! Krista loves salsa and travels to dance in California, Cuba or anywhere there is a good rueda.  She has two wonderful, smart daughters and lives in a tiny house with a cat, Logan. 

What stands out about Krista is that she is a fierce advocate, and she combines that with a strong sense of compassion. Clients are always asking for her by name, because she helped them before, and they know she will help them again.
— Ruth Kraut, WHP Program Administrator

-M. Buhalis

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WHP Profile / Perfil Personal: Spring Quiñones

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Spring Quiñones is a Bilingual Outreach Worker at the Washtenaw Health Plan (WHP). She primarily focuses on doing outreach to the Latino community to help them understand and obtain health care coverage, working to remove barriers and ensure that the Latino population enjoys equal access to health care services.

Spring Quiñones es una trabajadora de alcance bilingüe para el Washtenaw Health Plan (WHP). Ella se enfoca principalmente en ayudar a la comunidad latina para entender, obtener cobertura de salud, y eliminar barreras que les impiden disfrutar de acceso igual a los servicios de salud.

Prior to her start at WHP, Spring worked with Ann Arbor Public Schools as a Teacher’s Assistant for 6 years, working specifically with children with autism—which she absolutely loved. Spring first joined the WHP in 2013 under a federal grant from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to work with immigrant and homeless populations, ensuring they had equitable access to healthcare coverage.  Her primary focus was enrolling children and their families from the Latino Community and collaborating with the Education Project for Homeless Youth (EPHY) to make sure that they had Medicaid, MiChild and or the Marketplace. Spring also brings her skills as a Certified Bilingual Medical Interpreter to help facilitate questions around medical issues.

Antes de trabajar en el WHP, Spring trabajo con las escuelas públicas de Ann Arbor como asistente de profesor por 6 años, específicamente ella trabajo con niños con autismo—lo cual fue algo que disfruto mucho. Spring se unió al WHP en 2013 bajo una beca federal de los Centros de Servicios de Medicaid y Medicare (CMS) para trabajar con inmigrantes y personas sin hogar, asegurándose de que ellos tuvieran acceso equitativo a la cobertura de salud. Su objetivo principal era matricular a los niños y sus familias de la comunidad latina y colaborar con el Proyecto de Educación para Jóvenes Sin Hogar para asegurarse de que ellos tuvieran Medicaid, MiChild, o el Mercado de Seguro. Spring también trae sus habilidades como una Intérprete Médica Bilingüe Acreditada para ayudar a facilitar preguntas sobre temas médicos.

Spring’s compassionate nature and dedication to her work is contagious. She goes above and beyond to make sure her clients feel listened to, and her involvement in helping the Latino community does not stop with her work at WHP.

Spring es una persona muy compasiva y dedicada, su pasión por su trabajo es contagiosa. Ella va más allá para asegurarse de que sus clientes se sientan escuchados, y su participación en ayudar a la comunidad latina no termina con su trabajo en WHP.

Spring and Frania at an outreach event for families providing information about healthcare.

Spring and Frania at an outreach event for families providing information about healthcare.

Spring is also involved with the Washtenaw County Spanish Healthcare Outreach Collaborative (SHOC), where she helps facilitate meetings with organizations to discuss issues affecting the Latino community.  This collaboration is a valuable resource for information and network building that helps to eliminate barriers facing the Latino community. Spring emphasizes the importance of practicing cultural humility when engaging and educating the Latino community about issues surrounding health care, recognizing that things such as immigration, language, and culture can have a significant impact on health care delivery and access to health care services. 

Spring también está involucrada con el Spanish Healthcare Outreach Collaborative (SHOC), donde ayuda a facilitar reuniones con organizaciones para discutir cosas que afectan a la comunidad latina. Esta colaboración es un recurso valioso para informar ycrear redes sociales que ayudan eliminar los obstáculos que enfrenta la comunidad latina. Spring enfatiza la importancia de practicar la humildad cultural al participar y educar la comunidad latina sobre asuntos relacionados con la salud, reconociendo que elementos como la inmigración, el lenguaje, y la  cultura pueden tener un impacto significativo en la entrega y acceso a los servicios de salud.

Milo curls up and his markings form a heart.  

Spring has two children, an 18 year old daughter, and a 19 year old son, and a dog named Milo. She is originally from Colombia and previously lived in New York, and has now lived in Ann Arbor for the past 11 years.

Spring tiene dos hijos, una hija de 18 años, un hijo de 19 años, y una mascota llamado Milo. Ella es originalmente de Colombia, vivió previamente en Nueva York, y ha vivido en Ann Arbor por los últimos 11 años.

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WHP Staff Profile: Kelly Stupple

“The first few years of a child’s life make a world of difference, shaping who he or she will become, what he or she will achieve and how he or she will contribute to society as an adult.” --Kelly Stupple, Child Health Advocate

The first few years of a child’s life make a world of difference, shaping who he or she will become, what he or she will achieve and how he or she will contribute to society as an adult.

--Kelly Stupple, Child Health Advocate

 

Kelly Stupple is the Child Health Advocate for Success by 6 and is based at the Washtenaw Health Plan.  Kelly assists families in obtaining and retaining publicly-funded health insurance and quality medical, dental and mental health services for children, as well as prenatal and family planning care and insurance for women. 

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Irionna, a happy client, with Kelly. 

For several years, Kelly was the co-chair for Barrier Busters, a collaborative working to remove barriers to housing and health for low income county residents.  Kelly co-chairs the Spanish Health Care Outreach Collaborative (SHOC) with Spring Quinones. SHOC is a networking organization of Washtenaw area health, education and human service professionals who serve the Latino community.  Kelly is also a member of the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Care Work Group of the Washtenaw Health Initiative. She works with children's oral health and infant mortality prevention with an emphasis on disparities. Collaborating with area agencies, schools and medical providers, Kelly works to ensure that all families, regardless of income, country of origin or language spoken, have access to comprehensive and compassionate health care. 

Kelly has an AB from Harvard with a major in African American Studies and an MSEd in Guidance and Counseling from Hunter College. Her work history includes counseling for students of color, managing grant funds, and working extensively with low-income families and families with complex medical issues, navigating the health system.

Buddy's Pizza in Detroit. Kelly's favorite! 

Buddy's Pizza in Detroit. Kelly's favorite! 

Kelly also LOVES Buddy's Pizza in Detroit, likes to go for walks, and is married to a public school teacher/musician.  She is passionate about Michigan, Ypsilanti, Detroit and Ann Arbor.  Her daughter is in 8th grade at Slauson Middle School and will be following in her mother's footsteps, attending Community High School next year. She also has 3 cats and a part-time dog. 

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WHP Profile: Meredith Buhalis

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Meredith Buhalis began working at the WHP just weeks before the April 1st, 2014 start of the Healthy Michigan Plan. She hit the ground running, doing her first application on her own on opening day! Since then, Meredith has been an asset to the WHP, doing a very high volume of enrollments.  As part of the WHP team, Meredith works to help a diverse group of clients navigate the complexities of the current health care system.

Although getting health care coverage is the main focus of the WHP, educating people about their options and supporting clients to become their own advocates is her passion.  A client wrote this about Meredith.

 "She is amazing and she will help you! She has put the power back into my hands. These programs are funded and if you are eligible they should NOT ever be out of your reach. Call Meredith. Get the help you need to gain the coverage you deserve."
Check out the website and subscribe to our blog!

Check out the website and subscribe to our blog!

During the Coverage Counts CMS grant, Meredith worked out of the Livingston County Department of Public Health and has helped many community members in both Livingston and Washtenaw counties. Now, Meredith is full-time at the Washtenaw Health Plan offices in Ypsilanti.

Meredith first studied education and human development at Antioch College where she fully absorbed the founder's pleas to graduates, "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity." After college and brief careers in house painting and restaurants, Meredith attended the School of Information at the University of Michigan. As part of hi-ce, she taught school librarians to use the Internet and helped organize the World Wide Web, pre-google.  She worked with nonprofits, technology and social workers before moving on to the wonderful world of school libraries.  Now she puts her organizational, creative, and people skills to good use at the Washtenaw Health Plan.  

Times change. Now, Meredith and family are covered by employer insurance!

Times change. Now, Meredith and family are covered by employer insurance!

For instance, Meredith designed the healthcarecounts.org website. Recently, our website and blog has been commended for its amazing marketing team. And that team is primarily Meredith!

Meredith lives in Ann Arbor with her husband, the singer/songwriter Chris Buhalis, daughter and dog. 

--Haley Haddad and Ruth Kraut

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WHP Profile: Michael Randall

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In 2013, as the Washtenaw Health Plan was searching for an Americorps volunteer to be a Community Resource Navigator, the resume of Michael Randall crossed the desk of Krista Nordberg, WHP's Director of Enrollment. That turned out to be the right choice, because Michael found value in the work and has a great way of connecting with people. As a Community Resource Navigator, Michael worked with agencies across Washtenaw County supporting the implementation of the Healthy Michigan Plan (Medicaid) and providing access to health care and food assistance for families and individuals.  He trained nonprofit employees and volunteers to provide access to public benefits. When his Americorps time was up, Michael stayed on with the WHP.

Michael discussing the Affordable Care Act and its impact.  

One of Michael's outreach jobs as an Americorps volunteer was to visit some smaller communities. As Laura Seyfried, Executive Director of the Manchester Community Resource Center noted,

"Michael worked with mutual clients at the Community Resource Center during his time as an Americorps Community Navigator. His calm, understanding manner really helped the clients feel at ease when talking with him about their needs and situation. His approach was empathetic yet informative and built confidence in the client. I can see Michael's future as a leader in human service advocacy or politics."
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In fact, Michael Randall is a tireless advocate for individuals.  He started helping people back in 2006 as a Patient Attendant, as he was working his way through college.  He continued working with individuals as he transitioned to an internship at the Ypsilanti Housing Commission-Chesapeake Community Partners. 

In the midst of all this work, Michael married the love of his life, the lovely Alaina, in June 2015. Michael and Alaina are vegans who love to cook and eat together.  In his spare time, Michael is also the President of Bridge Young Adult Ministries.  Michael found a new appreciation for all that libraries and librarians do when he became a Trustee of the Ypsilanti District Library in 2015.

Michael Randall being sworn in as a Trustee of the Ypsilanti District Library.

Michael Randall being sworn in as a Trustee of the Ypsilanti District Library.

If Michael had a personal slogan, it would certainly include the word Community.  It is part of all that he does every day.  WHP is lucky to have his smile, enthusiasm and tireless advocacy. He really does embody our unofficial tag line, We Help People.  

Thanks, Michael Randall, for making sure that Coverage Counts!

 

 

 

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WHP Profile: Ruth Kraut - Manager of the Year

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Ruth Kraut recently won Manager of the Year for Washtenaw County.  In addition to being a stellar program manager at the Washtenaw Health Plan, Ruth also bikes, hikes and blogs about schools.  Enjoy reading about her!  She is amazing and we wouldn't be who we are without her.

From the nomination:

Ruth is an extremely effective collaborator. In whatever area she is working in, she actively seeks out opportunities to engage with colleagues and community partners to enhance the work and the ultimate outcomes. She leads a team of staff on a large grant project to provide Medicaid outreach and enrollment assistance to our county's most vulnerable citizens. She is able to find each team member's strengths and is masterful at bringing out their best contributions. She is very supportive and encouraging to her team.

Michael Appel, Measie James and Ruth at a Bike Ypsi event.

Michael Appel, Measie James and Ruth at a Bike Ypsi event.

Ruth is hard working, knowledgeable and passionate about the work. Her dedication is infectious. She is very proactive, always seeking out new opportunities and solutions to further our work. She willingly shares her knowledge and expertise with many others, including staff and others in our community. She is in demand as a trainer regarding the new enrollment requirements of the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion. She makes very complicated information easy to understand, encouraging and inspiring others to get involved in the work.

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Ruth is always looking for new ways to achieve the WHP goals. She sought and we received a large federal grant to provide Medicaid outreach and enrollment assistance to vulnerable populations, including immigrants, homeless kids and their families and teens. She sought out and we received another grant to conduct an immigrant mental health needs assessment and to provide mental health services to immigrants. She always has the larger WHP mission and vision in mind, as she proactively seeks out ways to achieve the vision. She sees the big picture and at the same time, she stays on top of the details. She consistently goes above and beyond, finding creative ways to ensure that our most vulnerable county residents are getting the care they need.

Ruth and staff member Michael Randall celebrate their birthdays.

Ruth and staff member Michael Randall celebrate their birthdays.

The WHP serves the county's most vulnerable citizens, working to ensure that they get access to the health care services that they need, when they need it. Access to health care services has been a big unmet need in our community. The Affordable Care Act is improving that, but much work needs to be done to get to full implementation. Ruth's work with individual clients of the WHP, and her work with partners in the community is having a tremendous impact, and moving the needle on this important indicator of community health.

Ruth won an award for Manager of the Year and also won an award as part of the Washtenaw County Public Health department team that helped create the Washtenaw County Dental Clinic.

Ruth won an award for Manager of the Year and also won an award as part of the Washtenaw County Public Health department team that helped create the Washtenaw County Dental Clinic.

Ruth is responsible for many key programs for the WHP. Her role of Program Administrator is all encompassing, and she manages and participates in a large number of programs, all aimed at expanding access to health care services. She was a key member of the team that worked on establishing the Washtenaw County Dental Clinic. She leads the WHP Community Coordination and Dental Services Workgroup. She has program responsibility for the WHP's role as lead agency for safety net health in the Coordinated Funding process. She willingly takes on projects that will further the organization's goals. She is Manager of the Year each and every day, as she models hard work and dedication in service to our county residents.

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WHP Profile: Jean Amador

It's Friday! Learn about a WHP staff member.

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WHP Profile: Haley Haddad

This week, the WHP loses a valued staff member. Haley Haddad is going to graduate school (University of Michigan School of Public Health)!

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