Tucked into five Providence primary care clinics and hospitals is a unique service benefitting some of the most vulnerable patients. Community Resource Desks provide free, confidential help to connect people to vital social services, such as housing resources, employment assistance and food pantries. Two of the five desks opened in 2019: one in Medford, Oregon, and the other in Vancouver, Washington.
Responding to unmet social needs
National data show that when basic needs are unmet, poor health outcomes and disparities result. This growing body of evidence creates new challenges for health care personnel. A recent survey of Providence health care providers found that many cannot adequately address their patients’ nonmedical social needs.
That’s where the Community Resource Desks step in. Clinical caregivers refer patients directly to a resource desk where experts connect them to local resources to ensure their basic needs are met. Services are available to anyone, regardless of whether they have insurance, are on the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) or are a Providence patient.
The desks are staffed full time by specialists from community partner organizations, Impact NW in the Portland area and Clatsop Community Action in Seaside. The specialists are fluent in English and Spanish, and translation services for other languages are available.
More than 10,000 people have received support from the Community Resource Desks over the past four years. Steve was one of those people:
- Steve was a single dad when he was diagnosed with cancer. His job did not offer paid time off, but in order to keep his medical appointments, he had to reduce his work hours. He felt trapped, unable to provide for his daughter. Thanks to a referral from his primary care provider and help from the Community Resource Desk, Steve received rental assistance to preserve housing for his family.
Finding the right help
Community Resource Desks identify available services, such as housing and food assistance. They screen people for eligibility, teach people about available resources and serve as advocates for those in need.
For example, people may discover they qualify for energy assistance or for the Oregon Health Plan with its transportation and dental benefits. Specialists follow up with participants to ensure they have successfully found the resources they need.
Supported by Providence research
Through its community health needs assessment, the Providence Community Health Division identified areas that would benefit the most from having a local resource desk. Using this information, Providence partnered with strong community organizations that were well positioned to provide needed resources. In turn, Providence provides ongoing technical assistance and trains community partners on data collection so they can adjust the program to meet changing needs.
Thanks to strong community partnerships, Providence is linking at-risk patients to vital social services and improving health in communities throughout Oregon.