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.
Edinboro University knows the importance of giving back: how rewarding it can be for those doing the service and the difference it can make in the lives of those who benefit from it. EU strives to instill those same values in students by offering several community service opportunities.
Edinboro offers the following annual community-service projects to students, faculty and staff:
- Edinboro Clean-Up: This first-year student project is done during orientation. New students help upper class students move in and clean up the campus.
- Edinboro Coastal Clean-Up: This nationwide initiative project is done through the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC). Students form teams of five and use the day to clean up Edinboro Lake and neighboring creeks.
- Parade Clean-Up: This takes place the day after the Homecoming parade. Students walk the route and pick up the trash from the day before, keeping our community clean.
- RAKE (Random Acts of Kindness in Edinboro): Students head out into the community to rake leaves for the disabled and elderly. Last year’s RAKE resulted in 3,000 bags of raked leaves.
- The Big Event: Organized by Student Government and taking place in the spring, this event allows students to get out and do some spring projects for the elderly and disabled.
Visit www.edinboro.edu to learn more about community service and leadership initiatives at Edinboro University.