Community Health Clinic
SNAP Application Assistance Program
Community Health Clinic, Inc. in New Kensington is a non-profit 501(c)3 Federally Qualified Health Center. They provide primary care, including medical, dental, behavioral health, and psychiatric services, to all regardless of their ability to pay. The Clinic serves patients from all local counties. They accept all insurances, including Medical Assistance and Medicare,
and have a sliding fee scale for those without insurance. Additionally, the Clinic helps those without insurance obtain any insurance for which they might qualify to receive. For nearly a year, the Westmoreland County Food Bank (WCFB) has been working with the Community Health Clinic for the SNAP Application Assistance Program. Through this partnership, Lauren Hill (SNAP Outreach Coordinator from WCFB) assists individuals in applying for SNAP benefits. Scott McMannis is an Outreach Specialist and Certified Application Counselor at the Community Health Clinic. Below he discusses the impact that the Food Bank has had on the Clinic and the clients that they serve.
How have the patients at the Community Health Clinic been affected by hunger?
Community Health Clinic is located in the second highest poverty census tract and abuts the first and third highest poverty census tracts in Westmoreland County. The majority of our patients (76.9% in 2015) have incomes below 100% FPL. Although we don’t track hunger, we are anecdotally aware that hunger is a problem both with our patients and in the community at large – especially child hunger. This is reflected in the fact that there are 5 food pantries serving our immediate locale, plus other programs such as Project SEED and Sonward Youth Ministries that supply food to children on a regular basis. The New Kensington-Arnold School District has a 100% free or reduced price lunch rate. Many of our patients have both physical and mental illness. For these patients conducting activities of daily life may be difficult and as such they are more likely to experience hunger.
How has the Westmoreland County Food Bank and the SNAP Application Assistance program impacted the work of the Community Health Clinic?
The Food Bank and the SNAP Application Assistance have greatly impacted Community Health Clinic’s work in a number of ways. Of course, they provide food assistance to many of our patients which helps them achieve their medical/behavioral health goals. But in a more tangible sense, the Food Bank provides an opportunity to regularly communicate with the segment of our local population that is most in need of our services. The Food Bank quite graciously allows us to distribute clinic brochures and flyers of upcoming programs and events we offer. This is a tremendous asset that allows us communicate in a very effective way with our patients and potential patients.
The SNAP application assistance program allows us to provide a very helpful enabling service to our patients. We find that in addition to their medical and behavioral health problems our patients experience many barriers in the community that directly relate to their health. The SNAP application process is one such barrier-it is difficult for many patients to fill out an application whether online or by paper without assistance. There are also transportation problems in getting to the County Assistance Office in Greensburg which is about 45 minutes away and does not have a nearby bus stop. The SNAP application assistance fills a critical need. We refer many patients to the SNAP assistance whether by phone or the in-person clinics we offer monthly in partnership with the Food Bank. Additionally, Lauren who does the SNAP clinics, provides an intangible service as well-she treats people with respect and dignity and puts them at ease with a process that can be very stressful for many.
What would you tell someone who may be thinking about donating to the Food Bank?
Please do so! Through my work in the past 5 years or so, I have attended at least 100 Westmoreland County Food Bank pantry distributions and in the past my family has used the food bank as well. It provides a vital very tangible service, but also an intangible one. One thing I have noticed is that just about everybody is smiling including the workers and those receiving the food. The recipients are all treated with dignity and respect and are welcomed just as they are. If you look into the eyes of the recipients who are also volunteering at the distribution you see something special; they have purpose and meaning and dignity and often joy; which may not be reflective of their normal circumstances. I also see that the food banks are well run, the food is handled properly and safety is a consideration. Donating to the food bank would definitely be a wise investment in their community and definitely makes a real difference in people’s lives.