Runaway and Homeless Youth Grantee Will ‘Navigate” Youth to Health Care

When the new health insurance marketplace goes live October 1, trained health care “navigators” around the country will go to work helping people understand their coverage options under the Affordable Care Act. In Vermont, at least one of those organizations—Spectrum Youth & Family Services—plans to use their role as navigators to bring health care information to disconnected young people. The runway and homeless youth organization and Family and Youth Services Bureau grantee plans to expand its drop-in center to educate youth ages 18 to 24 about coverage options and provisions of the Act that may affect them.

Bridget LaRoche, Spectrum's drop-in and outreach coordinator, says the organization aims to enroll 300 young people in insurance during its first year as a navigator. Spectrum staff will be trained to understand as much as possible about the Act and the marketplace and to translate that information into youth-friendly language. Homeless youth with no stable income may be interested in an upcoming expansion of Medicaid eligibility, for example, but less likely to benefit from a provision letting them stay on their parents’ insurance.

 “Everything's up to the person as far as what they want to choose for their plan,” LaRoche says. “We just help them understand all the options and then it’s up to them.”

To educate the community about the health insurance marketplace and Spectrum's services as a navigator, staff plan to set up an information booth in a popular pedestrian mall near their office and to get the word out through social media, email distribution lists and recurring community meetings. Spectrum is also collaborating with other state navigator organizations, LaRoche says, to expand their collective outreach to youth.

“Each day, we watch grantees like Spectrum find new opportunities to improve the lives of young people facing great challenges,” said Debbie A. Powell, Acting Associate Commissioner for FYSB. “Spectrum’s decision to train their staff as navigators exemplifies that innovation and creativity.”

Learn more about your state's health insurance marketplace and how to access a list of local navigator organizations. The Administration for Children & Families is also establishing an Office of the Chief Medical Officer listserv to help communicate up-to-date information about the Affordable Care Act. Email if you'd like to be added to that list.