Members of Edinboro University’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program are collaborating with regional healthcare providers to connect the homeless and underserved members of local communities to a holistic, integrated quality care service.
Through Wellness Connection, Edinboro graduate student Emily Bond and instructor Natalie Montero have linked with community support groups to offer basic primary healthcare, behavioral health, case management, housing assessment and referrals, advocacy and wellness opportunities to these individuals and families. From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Fridays, Bond joins volunteers from the Erie region at the Mental Health Association, located at 1101 Peach Street in Erie, in providing accessible care.
“The focus of the clinic is to offer a holistic approach to wellness for the homeless and underserved populations,” said Bond, an Erie, Pa. native who graduated from EU’s undergraduate program and is now working towards her MSW. “Our goal is to end the stigma of homelessness and to inform the public about how important these individuals are.”
Under the guidance of Barb Lewis from the Erie United Methodist Alliance (EUMA), Edinboro is collaborating with Faith Community Nurses of Northwestern Pennsylvania, Community Health Net, Safe Harbor Behavioral Health and Gannon University on this ongoing initiative.
Montero, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Edinboro in 2005 and received her MSW in 2007, said that Wellness Connection helps to ensure that there are no gaps in the participants’ healthcare – from scheduling appointments to arranging transportation and follow-up meetings.
“The face of a homeless individual isn’t what everyone thinks,” said Montero, Edinboro’s MSW Field Coordinator. “Given an unfortunate circumstance, anyone can become homeless.”
Edinboro and EUMA’s Healthcare for the Homeless Partnership received a small grant of approximately $1,400 to purchase a laptop for the unit and to cover liability insurance for the healthcare providers. Aside from those funds, the group relies 100 percent on donations and volunteers.
As an Edinboro student, Bond not only develops her social work skills and abilities through the Wellness Connection, but she also is learning how to develop and promote healthcare services. This semester, she has collaborated with the group to create an informational pamphlet, design the logo, plan goals with clients and collect data through a patient matrix – which helps to assess and address patient needs.
“We need to figure out what services these individuals need before we can connect them to the right person,” said Bond, who uses the matrix to measure domains such as housing, employment, food, education and mental health. “We do this at the beginning of the services and then again at three months and six months.”
Montero said that Wellness Connection has provided real-world experiences beyond the textbook and course work.
“This is an excellent opportunity for Emily to lay the groundwork for developing a successful program,” she said.
Individuals and groups who are interested in donating food, medical supplies or hygiene items to Wellness Connection or serving as volunteers, sponsors or healthcare providers should contact Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn about the educational opportunities and community service events in Edinboro’s Master of Social Work program, visit www.edinboro.edu/msw.
Photo caption: Emily Bond, a Master of Social Work student at Edinboro University, and Natalie Montero, MSW Field Coordinator, have teamed up with local partners to offer Wellness Connection.