Hillcrest Family Services is rolling out a system that includes a mobile application to help guide area residents in need of mental health and other social services quickly and easily.

The system is known as AccessMeCare Hillcrest. It is designed to act as a single portal for dozens of area providers and organizations to help people access care based on their own determinants of health without a lot of red tape and research.

“This platform can go with anybody,” said John Bellini, chief business development officer for Hillcrest. “You can be in the community talking to somebody. They can say, ‘I have this concern.’ Instead of telling them to call Hillcrest, you can get onto this app, say ‘What are you looking for?’ In six clicks and 90 seconds, you can make that referral. That referral will come in live, in real time.”

The app is available for service provider organizations to join and be connected to the system. Eventually, it will be live for clients via device but also through a series of touchscreen kiosks to be installed in various locations.

“We want these kiosks to be where people are,” Bellini said. “We can send it to the Multicultural Family Center. If people are presenting there, we want one down there. To reduce the stigma, we need to bring access to care to them.”

On the screen, someone can choose among basic needs, brain health, transportation, primary care and wellness, and housing categories. By selecting one, a list of organizations and providers available to fill those needs, as well as criteria for care, are listed. Eventually, referrals even will be able to be made with the press of a button.

The program will bypass the research needed for a client to find services they need, according to Hillcrest Director of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics and Community Outreach Programs Janae Schmitt.

“It would take you much longer, if you had access to internet as a client, to find the information that lives on here,” she said. “It’s very personalized to the community we have.”

The program also will allow Hillcrest staff to collect data on if and how clients are receiving care and where needs lie.

“What we’ve done in the past in social services is a big leap of faith,” she said “You’re meeting with someone and say you can get that referral down to (Substance Abuse Services Center) or Crescent (Community Health Center). Then, we hope and pray that they go. You see them in three months, and they say, ‘No, I didn’t get to do that.’ There’s no tracking. Then, you have to start over. With this system, we can know if that person presented.”

Bellini added that the system also could help identify barriers to services, such as a person who missed an appointment because they are not on a bus route.

So far, more than 30 health and service providers and area nonprofits are connected to Hillcrest’s program. Hillcrest is in the process of training those partners through the end of November before a full public rollout.

The first year of the AccessMeCare program is being funded through an $80,000 grant from the Mental Health/Disability Services of the East-Central Region, in addition to supplemental funding from federal grants and COVID-19 relief funds to Hillcrest. Hillcrest has applied to the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors for future funding for the program.

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