Connect Crittenden helps people in county find health care, food
The Arkansas Department of Health and Crittenden County leaders have created an online resource directory that connects people to food pantries, medical care and other free or reduced-cost help.
A $120,000 grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped fund the launch of Connect Crittenden in June.
Residents can visit the https://connectcrittenden.findhelp.com/ directory, input their zip code and view a list of resources that range from healthcare and food to transportation and education.
Once a zip code is entered, the directory shows a page of resources: food, housing, goods, transit, health, money and care.
When users click on a specific resource, such as food, a new page generates a detailed list of related resources:
• Community gardens (2)
• Emergency Food (6)
• Food Delivery (8)
• Food Pantry (24)
• Help Pay For Food (16)
• Meals (16)
• Nutrition Education (30)
Kendra Phillips, project leader and Crittenden County native, said, “We have challenges and gaps in connecting [people and resources].”
These gaps create a never-ending domino effect of unmet needs in the community, she said.
For example, Phillips said many community members miss doctors’ appointments due to a lack of transportation, which prevents them from receiving necessary treatment and help.
Connect Crittenden is an attempt to bridge those gaps.
Phillips said she plans to continue to find where nonprofits, health care systems and resources exist; share what they do and who they can serve; and then connect them to those in need.
“These are tough conversations that we need to be having — with or without a grant involved,” said Phillips.
Data shows that Crittenden County sits in the lowest health bracket — under 25% — on a scale from “least healthy” to “healthiest” when compared with other Arkansas counties.
State and local leaders set out to tackle the county’s growing health disparities through the CDC’s “Closing the Gap with Social Determinants of Health Accelerator Plans” grants.
The CDC says, “The conditions in which we are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age — known as social determinants of health (SDOH) — have a profound impact on health.”
These accelerator grants create opportunities for struggling communities, like those in Crittenden County, to create a plan to better meet the needs of its individuals and generate social connectivity as a whole.
The CDC chose 20 recipients, awarding Crittenden County with $120,000 in funding in September 2021.
This initial grant went toward in-depth research to further establish where the community members’ needs were lacking most — as well as partnering with Findhelp to launch the online directory.
Findhelp — a social care network — states, “Our customers use Findhelp technology to power their social care systems” and supports “connected social care for healthier communities.”
Because Connect Crittenden is powered by Findhelp, users across the state can benefit from the directory as well, simply by entering their zip code.
Phillips is hopeful the directory and continued help from the CDC will create an opportunity for a more livable situation for Crittenden County individuals and others in the Delta as a whole.
County leaders are working to extend efforts beyond the online directory.
U.S. Census data shows that approximately 80.4% of Crittenden County individuals have broadband Internet and 86.2% have a computer at home.
Tawana Bailey, director of community outreach for the city of West Memphis, said, “We just really didn’t have a spot to connect our citizens to our resources.”
Bailey said those involved with launching the online directory understand that the community does face technology barriers, adding that she and other leaders remain dedicated to locating areas with Wi-Fi and areas without Wi-Fi, as well as how they can continue to help every individual, regardless of their access to technology.
The information and research collected since receiving the initial funds have allowed Phillips to write a grant that entails a plan for executing a second phase of connecting Crittenden.
Phillips said the county is requesting an estimated $2 million in funds from the CDC toward tackling the disparities within the community.
Further funding, if received, will go toward the implementation of goals like accessible, free transportation, housing assistance and more.
In the meantime, local Crittenden County leaders are working to connect individuals to existing resources through communication and collaboration.
Leaders also hosted a back-to-school resource fair on Aug. 6 — which was designed in a way that brought community members face-to-face with local nonprofits, healthcare systems and resources.
Bailey said incorporating “punch cards” for participants to check off as they visited each vendor at the fair generated crucial conversations between those in need and those looking to help.