The vision for the social needs tool
When a person or family seeks help, they can use the social needs tool on the new website directly or with assistance from staff. The social needs tool offers a brief questionnaire, 6-10 yes/no questions that will begin to assemble a high-level picture their current situation. Rooted in the social determinants of health, these questions will help to identify a person or family’s unmet needs. A person’s answers will be used to offer personalized, prioritized recommendations for the next steps to access available programs, services and community resources nearby.
A person using the tool will be able to create or log into an online account. Having an online account will allow the person to view, save, print and share results, as well as store historical information. This is an online tool, but if a person prefers to complete the tool in person or over the phone with assistance, staff will be available to help.
The referrals and recommendations offered by the social needs tool will include government and community resources, and people will learn the next steps for accessing the programs and services. For example, if they need food today, a recommendation may be the address, location and hours for a nearby food shelf. The recommendation could also offer them a direct link to an application for a food assistance program. Both options might fulfill the need they have identified in a different way, and they can choose what fits their situation best. The tool will not directly determine eligibility for programs, but it will help people down a path that will take them there quickly.
People will be able to save their information, including referrals, and come back whenever they would like. People have a lot going on, and the option to come back and explore further later gives them flexibility. If someone is trying to address an urgent need and doesn’t have time in the moment to consider additional options, they can pursue that and come back to explore more when they are ready.
The new website, social needs tool, and online account are part of a broader vision for what we call integrated service delivery, which will offer people a more connected, simplified experience all the way from exploring services, to applying and enrolling, to coordinating ongoing services and working with staff.