Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Our Peers-Empowerment and Navigational Support for People with Disabilities (OP-ENS)

OP-ENS is a research study that will answer the question, “Do peer health navigators help people with disabilities get better health care?"

Medicaid beneficiaries with physical disabilities experience several barriers to healthcare that put them at a high risk for health disparities. 

Peer heath navigator (PHN) programs have been successfully used with people with chronic conditions. PHNs are persons from the local community who share the same demographic as those people that they serve. PHNs empower individuals to take control of their health care by providing individualized supports and structured problem solving skill building to help overcome health care barriers.

The purpose of this study is to implement and evaluate OP-ENS, a PHN intervention program, tailored to meet the primary health care needs of Medicaid beneficiaries with physical disabilities.  

Joel Margolis interviews OP-ENS principal investigator, Susan Magasi and peer health navigators Ron Booze and Ryann Brown about the OP-ENS program. This program was produced by Adapt of Chicago Productions, a CAN TV Community Partner.

Study partners Heading link

Funding Heading link


Support for this project is paid for by a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (9ORT5027).

OP-ENS Peer Health Navigators Heading link

Susan Aarup headshot

“I have over forty years of lived experience surrounding disability and different types of coping mechanisms. I believe we can learn from each other. Everyone is a valuable part of society. As a peer health navigator, my goal is to help people reach their potential through their own knowledge and available resources.”

Susan Aarup  |  Peer Health Navigator
Ron Booze headshot

“I am a 55 year-old African American male recovering from a traumatic spinal cord and neck injury from a 2009 automobile accident. I’ve had to go through multiple surgeries related to this accident. I currently use a cane to walk and I’m in therapy as well. I recognize and respect the barriers and difficulties other members of the disability community experience to receive, maintain and achieve the assistance and services that are much needed. My mission as a PHN is to educate and empower and educate on the resources available to access healthcare.”

Ron Booze  |  Peer Health Navigator
Ryann Brown headshot

“My name is Ryann Brown, I am a peer health navigator at UIC as well as an advocate for persons with disabilities. I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury in March of 2006. Since then, I’ve become a catalyst for change when it comes to dealing with concerns within the disability community. Some of my strengths include, but are not limited to dealing with accessibility issues, Medicaid Illinois managed care companies and gun violence survivors.”

Ryann Brown  |  Peer Health Navigator
Bob Green headshot

“Very often unexpected life traumas and challenges provide the best opportunities for self-reflection, mindset change, empathy for people, and an opportunity to share the experiences and solutions to problems that one encounters in life, such has been my experience working as a Peer Health Navigator.”

Bob Green  |  Peer Health Navigator
Kimberly Lee headshot

Kimberly Lee is a Peer Health Navigator for the OPENS program. She has been involved in the study for about a year and a half. She has worked on finding community gardens and food pantry resources. She is a Chicago native who was born and raised on the city’s South Side.

Kimberly Lee  |  Peer Health Navigator
Ryan McGraw headshot

“I am a person with cerebral palsy who has 11 years of experience working in the disability advocacy field. As a peer health navigator, my goal is to listen to the needs of my peers. From there, we can form the best course of action to deal with the issues you may face. I believe that empowerment and education is the key to knowing your rights and being able to get what you need.”

Ryan McGraw  |  Peer Health Navigator
Evelyn Rodriguez headshot

Evelyn is a peer health navigator who has been actively involved with OP-ENS since the beginning of the project.

Evelyn Rodriguez  |  Peer Health Navigator