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Group seeks to integrate low-income help

Rather than juggle numerous support agencies, frazzled customers may soon make one phone call or enter a room intending to receive medical advice and leave with appointments for legal services and a list of child care providers.

Spokane nonprofit Community-Minded Enterprises has received a $50,000 grant to launch its Integrated Access program, a pilot project that aims to make information about a variety of services available to low-income Spokane residents at one location.

It will work with Spokane Neighborhood Action Program and the public interest law firm Center for Justice to create a database that all the organizations can access and train staff to offer referrals.

“It’s a more holistic approach,” said JoMarie Francis, the project’s coordinator. “More and more services will learn to do this where they wouldn’t just handle the problem the client called them for but will try and glean information and pick up cues for hands-on referring to other agencies. A lot of these people don’t know where to get information let alone who to ask. This will give them the information they are not getting.”

Community-Minded Enterprises received the grant from the Seattle-based Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. It provides funding for a planning year where the three nonprofits will figure out how to understand different services and connect with each other. The aim is to create a connected hotline or electronic booking capabilities where a client can make an appointment at one agency while sitting in the waiting room at another.

“It’s a kind of internal reform or transformation as human service workers,” said Dan Jordan, the director of community services at SNAP. “Spokane has wonderful resources, but it’s hard to stay on top of, and people get caught in the runaround. One of the most important things we are looking to is to transform back to when we looked beyond ourselves and connected to the community.”

The money, he added, is good impetus. “Now we have to do it. It moves beyond just talking about it to practicing and trying it.”

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