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June 17, 2021 | Tom Ballard

Hand N Hand connects dots for applicants to a key DOL benefits program

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part three of a five-part series on the first cohort of the 100Knoxville initiative. The remaining two articles will be published over the next few weeks. Cohort 2 of 100Knoxville begins in early July.)

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

For many, the application for care through the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) “Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act” can be a confusing web of showing what chemicals may have caused what sickness. That’s where Hand N Hand comes in.

Lee Sloan joined his cousin and Co-Founder Stephania Whitt in building Hand N Hand after Whitt had worked in geriatric nursing for 23 years. Whitt said she saw a need for patients facing illnesses caused by nuclear plants or coal mining after she worked with many of them.

“Unfortunately, in nuclear plants a lot of the employees are exposed to chemicals that have very negative or life-taking reactions,” said Sloan.

While the DOL does have a list of chemicals workers could be exposed to at various work sites, Whitt said it can be confusing for someone who doesn’t have experience to look at that list and connect it to symptoms. This is often why people are turned down when they apply for a White Card, which connects them to insurance payments for healthcare.

Additionally, she added, many people who end up sick don’t realize that if they were contractors who only worked on site occasionally, they are still eligible for these benefits. “They didn’t realize that because they weren’t an employee of the plant that they were entitled to the same benefits,” she said.

Hand N Hand’s team does all the legwork, Sloan said. They connect the dots for patients in order to get their application together, literally helping to “hold their hand” through the process, he added. This helps patients to get approved for the care they need. If people are still denied, Sloan said they have a team of attorneys to help as well. Through this, around 98 percent of the patients working with Hand N Hand are approved for insurance. Once a patient is approved for a White Card, Sloan said, any care they have already received prior to applying is paid for through this program.

Both Whitt and Sloan said they are driven to help families and give the patients the best quality of life they possibly can. This includes taking patients to movies, helping with their care, and even helping with funeral costs and arrangements when necessary.

“It’s just as important as a new baby coming into the world, some people forget about that,” Whitt said.

Through the 100Knoxville program, Sloan was able to connect to mentors in the area. Sloan joked that the program helped to hold their hands through some of the processes of owning a small business.

“A lot of times people like us, small business owners (who) are stuck in that world just don’t have those relationships and/or those conversations about how to go further and how to resolve the issues that may come up,” he said.

100Knoxville also helped connect them with an expert on the Certificate of Need regulatory process, which is needed to establish or expand healthcare facilities in a given area. Additionally, Sloan built growth plans on the GrowthWheel software platform. He said the company hopes to expand into Kentucky eventually.

The 5x5x5x5 initiative also helped them to look at their website and social media sites and research best options for customer relationship software. Sloan said they will be using the $5,000 grant from the initiative to buy that software as well as some marketing.

Learn more about the 5x5x5x5 program in this article.

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