A new way to navigate the social service system

It’s a very exciting day at United Way for Greater Austin! Today we are launching a new initiative that seeks to change the way we navigate the social service sector and you’re in luck – you get to learn about this exciting new system straight from the source. Introducing Gyllian Garvey, Navigation Center Community Integration Director and the driving force behind ConnectATX. 

I spent the past four years as a Child Life Specialist, educating children and families about new diagnoses and experiences that come along with being hospitalized. In this role, I found myself discovering an immense need in our city to connect children and their families to support services and programs at a time of hurt, struggle, and financial burden. A Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) assessment during a quick visit to the Emergency Department often uncovered that the family did not have enough food to get through the evening. A new childhood cancer diagnosis has an ongoing list of challenges and changes the family will be faced with, but lack of transportation to get to weekly clinic and chemotherapy appointments was often an unnecessary barrier to the child receiving the best treatment possible. 

I kept thinking… providing social workers, child life specialists, and case managers with a local online social services tool will allow a quicker and seamless way to connect families to the resources they need most, like emergency food and medical transportation.  

My experiences alone are enough to say that there is a tremendous need for help navigating the social services sector in the greater Austin area.  2-1-1 data from 2019 shows that of the 200,178 requests we took from our 10-county region, 83% of these callers were repeat callersWhen I see this number, I think; what we are doing works.  We are connecting individuals in need with programs and organizations that can help.  More importantly, the fact that we are not only helping them once, but repeatedly, shows that there is more than one need, and it stems from health inequity

Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. Some of these health inequalities include, but are certainly not limited to, availability of resources to meet daily needs (e.g., safe housing and local food markets), quality of education, access to job opportunities, transportation options, public safety, and social support. 

In order to shed light on this health inequity and in an effort to begin to fill the gaps, I’m excited to introduce ConnectATX. ConnectATX is an online tool connecting people to social services in Travis County. As a compliment to 2-1-1, ConnectATX is in a unique position to both guide individuals to get the support they need, while serving as a link between clinicians and case managers to connect patients and families with programs and resources… all with just a few clicks.

An embedded SDoH assessment will explore multiple needs and provide a holistic approach to connecting seekers with resources and programs. For a more personalized humancare experience, our customer service-oriented navigation specialists are here to answer phone calls, and we plan to include text and chat capabilities later this year. 

ConnectATX is one piece of a larger Model Community Framework to develop an integrated view of individuals and families so that cross-sector organizations can coordinate efforts to improve the quality of life outcomes for residents in Central Texas. Funded by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and powered by Aunt Bertha, Model Community brings together social service agencies, community clinics, education entities, workforce training programs, and a community navigation hub (that’s United Way for Greater Austin’s ConnectATX!) in an effort to coordinate social support. 

In order to ensure the need is being met effectively, a successful Model Community will identify risk, include a comprehensive but easy to use navigation tool with the most up to date information available, and integrate the ability to close the loop on a referral. ConnectATX will include each of these pieces, serving as the public-facing platform for anyone looking for help.

ConnectATX, in partnership with the greater Model Community Vision, will equip individuals and healthcare workers with a tool to connect families and patients with not just the food they need tonight, but all of their underlying needs that exist. I believe that ConnectATX can be a solution to the current state of the incredibly hard to navigate social sector. With support and partnership  from community organizations, we can work together to create a centralized space to seamlessly connect families with resources across Travis County.

Check out ConnectATX

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