Many of the patients who seek care at a charitable clinic have more needs than health care. Often times they are faced with poverty or even homelessness. Others may have trouble accessing basic needs such as transportation, food, or clothing. Volunteers who have a particularly good working knowledge of the social services agencies in the area can serve an important role at the clinic.
Patient advocates can assist patients in navigating the sometimes challenging maze of social services. Examples of services they can provide are identifying patients that may be eligible for Medicaid or the state’s SCHIP program and referring them to the right agency to apply for services; referring patients who are eligible for food stamps to the local social services office; assisting patients in making specialty referral appointments (if such a program exists in the area); assisting patients in following through on the practitioner’s medical orders; or identifying vocational education programs in the area. Assistance like this will help to care for the whole patient and ultimately make them healthier and more productive members of your community.