Making referrals work
Eric Foote, formerly Community Development Planner, Grant Administration Specialist, Lake County Community Development Division

We give systems and organizations the resources to increase their impact

Making referrals work

“We launched the Service Point Referral Network to link the area’s nonprofit organizations together in ways that lead to better health and well-being for Lake County’s residents, particularly those with low incomes.

“Say you go to Catholic Charities for a housing issue, but you also have health issues, legal issues, or employment issues. Maybe Catholic Charities can’t help with those, but it can refer you to someone who can.

“Without Service Point, those referrals are informal: an agency may hand the client a flyer or give them a phone number and wish them the best. With Service Point, the agency can alert the health clinic or employment agency or legal services provider and say, ‘Hey, here is a person in need of your services, here’s their name, here’s their phone number,’ and that organization is going to reach out to the client.

“That simple link significantly increases the likelihood that the client is going to actually get the doctor’s appointment, the employment service or the legal supports. Clients don’t lose hope when they lose that piece of paper, because the organization that got the referral will keep trying to reach them for five days.

“Our office manages the network, so we know how many referrals have been successful and how many not, for whatever reason. If a participating organization wants to know what their status is, which some do, we’ll email them and say “Here’s what it’s been looking like for a year. Here’s how many referrals you got, here’s how many were cancelled,” for example.

“Of course, there is strict oversite of the data and its use. Participation is voluntary; every client signs an authorization before data is entered. A client may request that his or her information be removed at any time. Any outside requests for access to information need to go through the Service Point Coordinating Council, or SPCC. The Healthcare Foundation helped support the work of setting up the system and vetting the legal framework; now they’re helping underwrite agencies’ licensing and training costs.

“It’s going well. We have some very big programs in the system—Lake County Health Department, Mano a Mano, some of the townships, Erie Health, Phoenix Health—and we continue to grow. Agencies are finding that it takes a matter of 2 or 3 minutes to send a referral and 30 seconds to pick one up. More important, they’re finding it helps them achieve their mission: to connect people to the services and supports they need.”