Thrive by IU Health

January 26, 2024

‘Sister friends’ met through IU Health’s Congregational Care Network

‘Sister friends’ met through IU Health’s Congregational Care Network

A program that connects patients and congregations celebrates its success.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

They didn’t intend to match their outfits. But sure enough, Amanda Oliver and Gladys Tandy showed up at the recent Congregational Care Network Annual Celebration dressed in color coordinated attire.

It came as no real surprise to Tandy.

“It’s amazing how much Amanda and I have in common,” said Tandy, whose oldest son shares the same birthday with Oliver’s mother - Pearl Harbor Day. Oliver introduced Tandy to line dancing and both women are breast cancer survivors.

“She’s my sister friend,” said Tandy. The two were introduced through IU Health’s Congregational Care Network (CCN). The initiative started in 2020 to partner Indiana congregations with patients experiencing social isolation and loneliness. The idea was to train congregational members to offer companionship to patients discharged and at home.

Since its beginnings, the program has partnered with more than 30 diverse congregations, and touched the lives of more than 500 patients.

Starting the program during a pandemic meant finding creative ways to make those connections, said Jay Foster, Vice President of Spiritual Care for IU Health.

“A telephone call can be life-changing,” said Foster. As the program enters its fourth year, Foster said the focus will be on connecting patients with their purpose through their community,

“When they become ill people ask ‘how can I contribute. I don’t want to become a burden.’ They pull back and become more isolated. I’m thinking as we offer companionship we can ask them ‘where is your purpose, how can you do for yourself,’” said Foster.

For Tandy, that simple phone call made the world of difference.

“Amanda reached out at a time when I was going into a deep depression and caring for my brother who had a stroke. I truly thank God for allowing this program in my life and for introducing this human connection. It is spiritually powerful,” said Tandy.

IU Health President and CEO, Dennis Murphy referred to the Congregational Health Network as a collective effort that has resulted in significant results and outcomes. He talked about housing, education, and isolation having an impact on community health. “Some say those factors account for about 70 percent of a person’s health. We have a responsibility as the state’s largest health care system to address these issues. We have people here aligned with making Indiana a healthier place. The Congregational Health Network is one of those partnerships,” said Murphy.

Studies show that people involved with the Congregational Care Network have a lower incidence of hospital readmission and a significant decline in ER visits, said Murphy. The more than 30 churches, synagogues, and mosques have expanded to include geographic regions of Lafayette, Bloomington, and Muncie.