Jennifer Hanlon Wigon of WLP Selected by Boston Business Journal as an Inaugural Boston Innovators in Healthcare

Special to Sun

Jennifer Hanlon Wigon, executive director of Women’s Lunch Place, has been selected as an inaugural Boston Innovators in Healthcare, a recognition from the Boston Business Journal. The award is a reflection of Hanlon Wigon’s leadership in providing healthcare to the guests of WLP, as well as the dedication and dignity-infused service of WLP staff and support from the board of directors.

Hanlon Wigon maintains a focus on dismantling systemic inequities in healthcare access, food security, and housing for the guests of WLP. This responsibility came into stark relief just three months into her term with the outbreak of the pandemic. Hanlon Wigon immediately recognized the severity of the impact on vulnerable women and the capacity for WLP to respond with innovative and flexible programming. To meet that challenge, she charted an unprecedented three-year expansion of WLP’s service model. 

Key to this plan’s success were investments in staff recruiting, training, and professional development, intensive engagement with city and state leadership and community leaders, and collaborations with fellow human services agencies. As a spokesperson herself, Hanlon Wigon is deeply committed to elevating the voices of women as experts on their own gendered trauma and unique needs. As a founding Board member of the National Women’s Shelter Network, she is making a national impact on women’s health.

Hanlon Wigon’s prioritization of the physical and mental health of the guests of Women’s Lunch Place has resulted in remarkable investments, collaborations, data collection, and impact reporting. In program development, she emphasized the critical importance of addressing women’s lack of access to the Social Determinants of Health, which correlates to inequitable health outcomes and barriers to accessing healthcare.

Key achievements include: etablishing a partnership with Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) to provide full medical services on-site; last fiscal year BHCHP served over 1,000 unique women in WLP’s medical clinic; and creating addiction recovery programming, including expert and peer-led classes, six days a week; adding three, high-level, part-time clinical roles (two being women of color): a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner to provide therapy and psychotropic medications, a psychiatrist, and a mental health provider, who leads therapy groups.

In a unique new model with BHCHP, creating the position of Behavioral Health and Stabilization Clinician, a LICSW who provides individual and group therapy and conducts episodic crisis stabilization services. Creating nutrition initiatives within WLP’s Healthy Meals program––which served 113,430 meals last year––including collaborations with local farms and programming that ensures optimal benefits and permanent solutions to food insecurity.

Hanlon Wigon has a keen focus on advancing equity in opioid use disorder treatment, as many WLP guests––71 percent of whom are women of color––suffer from substance use disorders and lack access to care and sobriety support. Under her leadership, WLP has expanded its wraparound addiction recovery services––peer support, mental health services, nutrition, medical care, therapeutic expression, and life skills as catalysts for sobriety. Just a few years ago, the level of wellness and clinical support Women’s Lunch Place now provides to its guests was unimaginable. Rooted in WLP’s strategic plan and their knowledge of the acuity of need of the extremely vulnerable women they serve, their collective efforts have transformed – and saved – lives.

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