The Hill Top Health Ministries Consortium, an ecumenical, faith-based volunteer group of five neighborhood church congregations which also involves a collaboration with Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, received a 2003 Health Care Hero Award from The Pittsburgh Business Times for its community outreach services.
The consortium's vision is “to reach out to our neighborhood communities to improve physical, spiritual and mental health for community residents.” Serving residents of South Pittsburgh neighborhoods, it is collaboration amongst St. John Vianney Parish, St. Paul A.M.E. Church, Hill Top United Methodist Church, Trinity Lutheran Church, and Bethlehem Lutheran Church. The consortium provides a highly effective Home-Centered Elder Outreach Volunteer Program, a Young Adult Outreach Program, Health Education programs for women in midlife, Parish Nurse Outreach, Parenting programs, and an annual Health Fair, as well as ongoing screenings and education to the community. All services are free and confidential.
According to Mary Phan-Gruber, executive director of the Birmingham Foundation and the group's nominator, the consortium is effective as a grassroots health group because residents trust their churches and because it has directly worked to identify and address the community needs. Mercy collaborates with the consortium through its Parish/Congregational Nurse and Health Ministry Program and the Healthy Communities Institute.
Through the auspices of PMHS, Julia Lynn is a parish nurse with the consortium who “has been blessed to work in these communities and with this consortium over several years.” The consortium grew out of a volunteer health ministry at St. John Vianney Parish and the recognition of the importance of having someone with knowledge and experience to help provide direction and development of the ministries. Julia joined the staff as its parish nurse and began to expand its programming and outreach services.
The consortium came through a team vision which included Julia as the parish nurse, a St. John Vianney Parish volunteer health minister and a Trinity Lutheran Church volunteer health minister. Julia was able to act as coordinator and facilitator to approach pastors of the five churches in the Hill Top Ministerium about joining together to work in the community. The Elder Outreach and Young Adult Program Grant was developed and the consortium was formed.
For their work in developing and growing these community outreach programs, the Hill Top Ministerium was awarded a Health Care Hero Award for 2003. Says Joy Burt Conti, coordinator of the Parish/Congregational Nurse and Health Ministry Program, “Julia was the driving force in developing the consortium and expanding the health ministries in these communities.”
According to Lynn, “The consortium programs provide service to the elderly and young adult population that is not available through other social service agencies in these communities. These services are made available through volunteers from the congregations who meet the elderly one-on-one and through the pastors who are committed to the churches as promoters and advocates of wholistic health within the communities they serve.”
The consortium now has an advisory board as well, made up of local community leaders and professionals in several fields. Linking to resources, not duplicating efforts, is what they are all about. They collaborate with community organizations such as the Area Agency on Aging, the City of Pittsburgh Police Department and many Mercy programs from Mercy Behavioral Health to the Mercy Diabetes Program to the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing.