Connecting patients to housing and other services

Community Resource Desks in Oregon

Tucked into five Providence primary care clinics and hospitals is a connection to social services that is vital to some of Oregon’s most vulnerable patients.

Providence Health & Services’ Community Resource Desks provide free and confidential services such as housing resources, help with finding nearby food pantries and employment assistance.

The desks are prepared to respond to all kinds of needs, including life challenges arising from unexpected illness. Steve was a single dad when he was diagnosed with cancer and working a job that did not offer paid time off. He had to reduce his hours and felt trapped, unable to fully provide for his daughter. Thanks to a referral from his provider and a resource desk connection, he was able to get rental assistance to preserve housing for his family.

ImpactNW staff respond to unique needs from all walks of life at the Community Resource Desks in the greater Portland area.

Responding to unmet social needs

National data shows that unmet basic life needs directly contribute to poor health outcomes and disparities. As this increasing evidence reveals that the majority of a person’s health is determined by areas other than genetics and health behaviors, health care teams are facing new challenges. Providence health care providers echo this sentiment. A recent survey found that many of them do not have adequate time or resources to address non-medical social needs. Now, with Community Resource Desks, a clinic caregiver can connect a patient directly, either in-person or online, to find support and available resources in their community.

Through significant Providence community benefit investments and other grant resources over four years, more than 10,000 people have received support from the resource desks. Specialists from community partner organizations, Impact NW in the Portland area and Clatsop Community Action in Seaside, staff the desks full-time. Anyone can ask for help, regardless of whether they have insurance, are covered on the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) or are a Providence patient. Staff at every location are fluent in English and Spanish, and translation services for other languages are available as needed.

Finding the right help

Not only do resource desks help identify what services are available, such as help with housing, they also provide education to empower people to lead healthier lives. For example, people may discover they qualify for energy assistance or the Oregon Health Plan (and its transportation and dental benefits). The Community Resource Desk also helps determine eligibility for services such as food assistance, and can serve as advocates working with individuals in need. Specialists then follow up with patients to make sure they have successfully found resources.

Supported by Providence research

Providence’s community health needs assessment helped identify the communities that would most benefit from the resource desks, and Providence Oregon’s Community Health Division acted on the information to connect with strong community partner organizations well positioned to provide needed resources. Providence also provides ongoing technical assistance and trains community partners on data collection so they can adjust the program to meet changing needs.

Two new Community Resource Desk sites are opening in 2019, in Medford, Ore. and Vancouver, Wash.

Learn more about Impact NW and Clatsop Community Action.

Learn more about the Community Resource Desks.

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