By Sue Cody
Marcelo Hernandez sits at a desk in the lobby of Providence Seaside Hospital near the coffee kiosk, handing out flyers and offering information about rental assistance, food pantries, insurance, housing, childcare, transportation and other social services to help low-income families with basic needs.
Marcelo is a case manager for Clatsop Community Action (CCA) and is in charge of the Community Resource Desk sponsored by a grant from Providence Health & Services.
“The Community Resource Desk at Seaside has exceeded all expectations,” says Alana Kujala, manager of community partnerships for the hospital. In February, it served 55 households, which included 75 adults and 46 children, Marcelo says.
The program is designed to serve low-income people with a connection to services within a clinic or hospital setting. CCA was chosen because it is the largest social service agency that serves all of Clatsop County, Alana says. It offers an array of services and can refer clients to other agencies.
The main CCA office is in Astoria, which often creates a barrier for people living in Seaside or Cannon Beach. “The Community Resource Desk offers the same services as the CCA office, it just gives us more opportunity for folks to get the help they need,” says Elaine Bruce, CCA director of social services.
Having an office in Seaside serves south Clatsop County. “The bus stops right here at the hospital,” says Alana.
Located in the lobby between doctors’ offices and the hospital, the desk sits in an open area with lots of seating, not far from the information desk. It was intentionally designed in an open area without cubicles and other barriers to make people feel comfortable.
“It feels like a safe environment,” Alana says.
Some referrals come from doctors or staff at Providence, but the resource desk is a public service open to everyone regardless of their primary caregiver. No one needs to be associated with Providence in any way, Alana stresses, “This is a benefit for the entire community.”
Since the Community Resource Desk opened in November, the most sought service is for assistance paying utilities and rental assistance.
Marcelo is bilingual and versed in community-based social services in Clatsop County. He is trained in trauma-informed care and motivational interviewing.
Initially, Marcelo shows a patron a checklist that has colored boxes with icons they can check to identify the services they need most.
“The cards are a conversation starter,” Marcelo says. He does an initial intake and sees what services people qualify for. He may direct them to any number of food pantries or recommend where they can find legal assistance, help with utilities, rental assistance, health care and other social services. He can also sign them up for the Oregon Health Plan.
Marcelo is qualified to make home visits, which is helpful for those who are disabled or homebound, says Elaine. He offers assistance filling out forms for identification, income and social security.
From November through February, the Community Resource Desk has served more than 50 households each month and averages assisting 75 adults and 50 children per month.
After a pilot program at two Providence clinics in Portland, it expanded to Seaside and other areas.
It is beneficial for people to have the resource desk located at the hospital, because it sometimes saves a trip for people. Often, the time between an office visit and receiving help is a burden, and this eases the burden, Alana says. “We are excited the resource desk is here.”
The Way to Wellville, Columbia Pacific CCO and CareOregon encourage outreach such as that offered by the Community Resource Desk.