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Supporting free clinic patients' social needs with MSW interns: A pilot study

J.M. Rowe, E. Jang, V.M. Rizzo, Y. Kim, B. Ewald, M.R. Vail, K. Drechsler
Soc Work Health Care

Social needs, which are social risk factors including lack of access to stable housing, healthy food, or reliable transportation, are recognized as integral to health. Free clinics tend to serve patients with social needs, yet, few are screened or receive assistance. Lack of personnel, resources, and procedures to identify and assist patients are reasons few free clinics consider social needs. To address this service gap, a midwestern free clinic and neighboring Masters of Social Work (MSW) program established a partnership. A social needs screen was developed and integrated into health care practice. An MSW intern was also embedded as a member of the health care team to provide social needs assistance. A 6-month pilot study was conducted to assess the value of the screen and use of MSW assistance services. Of the 223 patients screened, 66.4% (n = 146) scored positive for social needs. Only four percent (n = 6) of the patients used MSW services. Chi-square analyses reveal significant differences in social needs by age, gender, race, education, and primary language. The findings suggest that the screening and MSW intern services are valuable; however, they further suggest that screening alone may be insufficient to encourage utilization of MSW services.

Rowe JM, Jang E, Rizzo VM, et al. Supporting free clinic patients' social needs with MSW interns: A pilot study. Soc Work Health Care. 2021 Mar 4:1-20. doi: 10.1080/00981389.2021.1894307. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33657981.

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Publication year
Resource type
Peer Reviewed Research
Social Needs/ SDH
Screening research
Social Determinant of Health
Not Specified
Social Support/Social Isolation
Study design
Other Study Design