You’re underemployed, with debt, no healthcare, and that nagging cough won’t go away. What would you do? Fortunately in many communities, volunteers connect people in need to healthcare resources that can bring some stability to their lives.
In Winchester, VA, for example, United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley created the Valley Assistance Network to help people navigate the social services system. Valley Health System provides in-kind services of a healthcare professional one day a week and United Way manages the project, but otherwise the system runs entirely with volunteers.
Over the phone and in person, volunteers use a standard intake form to identify needs and make helpful connections to prescriptions or transportation to doctors, help individuals with Medicaid applications, and perform a range of other helpful tasks. In the last two years, volunteers have served 1,300 families and made 5,000 community referrals.
Recently volunteers started implementing very successful SBIRT (Screening Brief Intervention and Referrals to Treatment) Screenings. In the first two months, 21 people – who likely would not have reached out for help in another way -- were connected with mental health or substance abuse services.
This is Global Pro Bono Week, when we shine the spotlight on people who volunteer their professional expertise. “Pro bono publico” is a Latin phrase meaning “for the public good.” Typically, we think of pro bono volunteers as providing marketing, legal services, HR, strategy and IT services free of charge. There are more and more opportunities, however, for healthcare professionals to provide pro bono assistance, through groups like Physicians for Human Rights, National Patient Advocate Foundation, Health Right International, and your local United Way.
Regardless of your line of work, why not join others who are using their professional skills for the public good?