Tulsa can be a scattered, disconnected network of resources for many families that need assistance. There are incredible services and programs available to families, but many members of the community are not fully aware of all that could be available to support their children and family. COVID-19 only made accessing many of these resources and federal programs more difficult due to reduced in-person office accessibility and changes in service hours. What was an already difficult web of resources to navigate, only became more inaccessible and disconnected. Many different BEST partner organizations recognize this barrier that parents face in trying to find the resources they need to support their families. Changing the landscape of care coordination has been central to the BEST vision of offering a more seamless continuum of care for families with young children from the beginning. Emergency Infant Services (EIS) has been one of those organizations at the forefront of making these improvements. Building on their core mission, EIS approaches improved care coordination with the belief that every family in Tulsa facing hardships should be able to access immediate help because a child in need cannot wait.
Jacky Escobedo joined the Emergency Infant Services (EIS) team 6 years ago, as a Spanish language interpreter for the program, and since then she has become the Director of Social Services. Growing in her role, she became the point of contact for referrals at EIS. Other programs and organizations in Tulsa would send emails to her or phone calls would be made and quick notes would be taken down on clipboards. There was no official system to take referrals, and thus it was hard to organize information and track referrals. EIS, like many other organizations in Tulsa, “have been waiting for something like Unite Us to help organize information and better streamline services for families.”
We have been waiting for something like Unite Us to help organize information and better streamline services for families that have been referred from organizations outside of EIS.
Jacky Escobedo, Director of Social Services at Emergency Infant Services (EIS)
In 2020, the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority (OHCA) signed a contract with Unite Us, a program that would allow organizations to join an official referral network and gain an interface and system for sending and accepting referrals with organizations within the referral network. Unite Us would streamline referrals by keeping family information secure and allow organizations to directly send data to one another at the request of families seeking additional resources outside of the organization they were currently engaging with. Since then, GKFF-BEST has been assisting BEST partner organizations in becoming part of this referral network, to make it easier for families engaged in those programs to navigate and access different services and resources.
Jacky emphasized how Unite Us has expedited the intake and checkout processes for families at EIS and reduced the trauma and vulnerability involved in seeking help. Emergencies can be difficult to manage and are never planned for by anyone. Many families can already be hesitant to come in. With the information shared through Unite Us referrals, families forgo having to re-explain themselves, which can be traumatic on top of any events causing an emergency to occur.
The actions of understanding and acknowledgment make a difference for families. Jacky gave an example of her being able to greet a family in Spanish, having seen their language preference in the Unite Us referral to EIS. She spoke about families’ improved experiences with the “warmth of being understood” before they even walk through the doors of EIS. The preparation from the referral that caseworkers can have before seeing a family makes a difference, allowing staff to make any necessary accommodations ahead of time. Tracking these referrals also allows staff members to follow up and ensure that families get the resources that they are seeking, building a greater trust in the network of available resources in Tulsa for the community.
“Unite Us has been a game-changer for us.”
Jacky Escobedo, on how referrals in Unite Us have helped her and other caseworkers at EIS
Since July 2021, Emergency Infant Services has accepted 112 referrals through the Unite Us Network, meaning 112 families have been directly referred to EIS. GKFF-BEST is grateful to EIS for being an incredible community advocate for the Unite Us network. EIS has been a resource in the Tulsa community for a long time, and the use of the Unite Us referral network will continue to support their ability to build long lasting relationships and community trust. In early July, EIS will be opening a second location, at the Tulsa Public Schools Parent Resource Center, which is situated in the heart of North Tulsa and co-located with North Star Academy. EIS will continue to accept referrals and see families that need assistance at this second location.
Since the beginning of 2021, 20 BEST partners have joined the Unite Us network, strengthening the data referral network in Tulsa. Some of the BEST Partners who are a part of Unite Us are CAP Tulsa, DVIS, Tulsa Educare, Emergency Infant Services, Family and Children Services, Front Porch, Hunger Free Oklahoma, Parent Child Center of Tulsa, Mental Health Association, Restore Hope, Tulsa Health Department, Tulsa Housing Authority, Tulsa Responds, Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative, Tulsa Community Work Advance and Youth Services of Tulsa.If your organization would like to learn more about how they can send and/or receive referrals through Unite Us, please reach out to Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.