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Executive Director Shawn Marconi, MBA, poses outside Will-Grundy Medical Clinic during a MAVEN Project site visit.
In addition to its traditional grantmaking, VNA Foundation (VNA) awards Special Initiative funding, which represents the foundation’s highest level of philosophical and financial commitment. Special initiative grants support new or expanded approaches to address health challenges in innovative ways and are generally invited by the foundation. One such example is the partnership between the Illinois Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (IAFCC) and MAVEN (Medical Alumni Volunteer Expert Network) Project, which addresses the lack of access to high-quality specialty care experienced by those who are uninsured or underinsured.
MAVEN Project enlists, trains, and coordinates a network of nearly 200 volunteer medical specialist consultants and links them with community-based providers via a uniquely designed telehealth system. With more than 60 medical specialties available for consultation, MAVEN Project helps community-based provider partners to accurately diagnose and treat their patients, while reducing the need for patients to wait for and assume the cost of specialist appointments. By training the provider rather than the patient, MAVEN Project’s guidance is multiplied, allowing the provider partner to apply what they’ve learned to other patients and share it with their clinical colleagues. In addition to consultations, MAVEN Project offers educational workshops and mentoring to help partners develop professionally and provide the best possible care for their clients.
MAVEN Project was launched in California in 2014, and by 2018 had built partnerships across nine other states. Having learned about MAVEN Project through public media and other foundations, VNA and IAFCC—a longtime VNA grantee partner—connected with MAVEN Project and began exploring its expansion into Illinois. After carefully considering the capacity of both agencies, and MAVEN Project’s ability to build relationships with free and charitable clinics, VNA awarded a Special Initiative grant to help the MAVEN Project partner with IAFCC, and by doing so, establish its first presence in the Midwest.
“VNA Foundation and the Illinois Association of Free and Charitable Clinics are terrific! We are grateful for the opportunity to partner to bring Illinois clinics and their providers access to much-needed medical specialty expertise, enabling them to continue to provide their patients with the high-quality, comprehensive care they need, when and where they need it.”
— David Segal, MAVEN Project Chief Executive Officer
MAVEN Project initially partnered with three IAFCC member clinics: Family Health Partnership Clinic in McHenry County, Bolingbrook Christian Health Center serving DuPage and Will Counties, and the Chicago Women’s Health Center. A year later, additional partnerships were formed with The Night Ministry, Will Grundy Medical Clinic in Joliet, and the Interprofessional Community Clinic at Rosalind Franklin University. Together, these six participating clinics reach thousands of patients, including immigrants, individuals experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and people living in poverty and without health insurance.
Free and charitable clinics meet a critical need by providing primary care to uninsured and underinsured patients. Unfortunately, many clinics lack the resources and staffing to offer more specialized care. MAVEN Project makes it possible for patients to get the specialty care they need at no cost, and through familiar and trusted clinics.
Access to specialty care has been identified by our member clinics as a priority need for free and charitable clinics in Illinois. IAFCC is grateful to VNA and MAVEN Project for understanding this need. We anticipate that more clinics will engage in these important resources through MAVEN Project.”
– Melissa Maguire, IAFCC Executive Director
MAVEN Project’s local partnerships have been highly successful; however, as with all new projects, there have been obstacles that require adaptation and innovation. For example, MAVEN Project experienced difficulties early on with creating and sustaining partnerships with free and charitable clinics, especially when compared to federally qualified health centers and other community health centers. With IAFCC and VNA assistance, MAVEN Project conducted surveys and site visits and determined it needed to reduce its fees for free and charitable clinics to ensure sustainability. It also found that it had to adjust its training practices to allow for the often-irregular schedules held by volunteer clinicians. MAVEN Project and IAFCC are compiling these findings and others, creating a list of best practices for working with free and charitable clinics that can be shared with other stakeholders.
VNA made its fourth investment in the MAVEN Project in June 2023. The funding will help MAVEN Project launch two additional partnerships in Illinois, sustain its partnership with IAFCC and its current clinic partners, develop additional best practices, and continue to address any barriers that arise. MAVEN Project and IAFCC expect to reach at least 4,200 patients during the project year.
“In partnership with the Illinois Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, MAVEN Project is addressing the longstanding barriers un- and underinsured clients face when trying to access specialty care. All of us at VNA are proud to support MAVEN Project’s launch and expansion in Illinois, and we look forward to witnessing its continued growth and impact.”
— Rob DiLeonardi, VNA Foundation Executive Director