UPMC Western Maryland, local partners, make finding help easier than ever thanks to Path2Help
Have you ever needed a resource but didn’t know where to find it? Maybe you’ve been frustrated by calling several agencies in order to find the right one. There is a new tool available in our community to help both consumers and agencies find resources to help and identify gaps that need to be addressed.
Path2Help is a search and referral software platform that uses a dignified, simple method to connect all people in need with the programs that serve them. Path2Help makes it easy for people facing social needs and those who help others to find and make referrals to appropriate programs and services for food, shelter, health care, work, financial assistance and more.
The site is powered by Aunt Bertha, which is the largest closed loop referral network for social services in the United States, serving 1.8 million people. Locally, UPMC Western Maryland partners with the Allegany County Department of Social Services, Associated Charities, AHEC West, Allegany County HRDC, and the Local Management Board to connect users to an array of resources.
Path2Help can be used by anyone in the community, and UPMC Western Maryland will work with the libraries and other partners that provide internet access to make the connection easy. Jennifer Ziemann, who works in Wellness at UPMC Western Maryland, said the platform is an amazing way to help friends and family who live near and far and might not otherwise know how to find services in their area. When helping a friend during pregnancy, she immediately thought of Aunt Bertha. “By just plugging in her zip code, I was able to identify several resources and email them to her through the platform. She knew it was coming from me. From one resource she got two $30 gift certificates for baby clothes.” This option helps those who may not feel comfortable going through a local agency. “People can go on the site and look for services themselves if they don’t want to connect to a local partner,” said Courtney Thomas, Allegany County Department of Social Services Director.
In addition to being an online resource directory for our community, this platform has a screening component that can be used by the partners to identify individual and community needs. Based on an individual’s responses to a series of questions, the platform creates a list of resources to address the individual’s identified needs. “We started using this in November and it’s been going great,” said UPMC Western Maryland Lead Community Health Worker Lakeisha Johnson. “Everything is right there that you need. I think it’s been really helpful in getting people the resources they need on a city, state and national level.”
Thomas said how the service is explained to the new user is a key component of making it a successful experience. “I think people often get involved with us for one specific service, but by asking questions and doing this assessment they can find out about different services they may also need,” she said. “Most people don’t just have one problem or concern, there is typically an array of services they need; they just don’t know what questions to ask or what agencies to go to. This takes care of that. This connects them to the services they need.”
Whether they are referred to UPMC Western Maryland or work with one of the partner agencies, taking time with a new user is important. “Sometimes you have to take it a little slow with people and find out what they need the most at first,” Johnson said. “We really try to let people think about their options and understand what is out there.”
Having one platform to which all the partner agencies have access, reduces duplication, increases coordination of care, and enables tracking of progress at both the individual and community level. “I really like that everything is so compact,” Johnson said. Social Services, HRDC and our team can access everything. These are the people we work with often. To have everyone be able to use the same system really helps us stay in the loop.” With consent, notes can be made about an individual’s concerns or progress that has been made. This also helps the different entities refrain from covering the same ground twice and asking repeat questions.
The Path2Help website is just one of the latest population health initiatives that UPMC Western Maryland is working on to improve overall health. “The health system’s willingness to collaborate with community partners to address the social determinants of health is just another example of how they are investing in the community,” Thomas said. “
Create an account for free and try it out at https://path2help.com. For more information or to add a resource, call WMHS Community Wellness at 240-964-8424.