Pathfinder expands resources through new partnership with Tennessee Department of Health

Laptop with screen showing Tennessee Disability Pathfinder's website

Through a new partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Disability Pathfinder is expanding access to community resources through its free online searchable database and added staff assistance.

The seeds of this collaboration were sown at the 2014 Tennessee Disability MegaConference when staff members of the Tennessee Department of Health’s Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) program recognized the potential for sharing resources through Pathfinder’s information and referral (I&R) service, which includes a helpline staffed by I&R disability specialists and a searchable database. That potential has now been realized through the merging of online resource directories and the addition of a Pathfinder staff member, Sarah Kassas, who is specializing in health-related I&R.

The Department of Health’s CYSHCN program included an online resource directory for families and professionals to use when seeking additional support services, but limited grant funding made it difficult to maintain.

“The Health Department staff saw that Pathfinder could be a valuable partner in helping users continue to access the information they need,” said Megan Hart, Pathfinder director. “In return, Pathfinder saw a great opportunity to expand its resource directory to include new community agencies not otherwise included on its website. It was a win-win situation for both Health and Pathfinder.”

Visitors to both websites, CYSHCN and Pathfinder, will notice changes. For individuals visiting CYSHCN’s resource directory, they will see a message directing them to click on an icon that leads them to Pathfinder’s search page.

For individuals visiting Pathfinder’s agency search page, the changes may not be as obvious. For example, users searching for community resources through Pathfinder’s online database may notice that there are 15 new service categories added to the existing 70 categories, which include: Animal & Pest Control, College/University Resources, Community Education, Consumer Safety Standards, Domestic Violence & Child Abuse, Elementary & High Schools, Financial Assistance–Clothing & Basic Goods, Financial Assistance–Rent & Utilities, Fire/Rescue Resources, Library, Prenatal Care, Records/License /Permits, Substance Abuse Prevention & Treatment, Supported Living Resources, and Transitional Housing / Shelters.

More than 2,500 additional agencies throughout the state will gradually be included in various database search results on Pathfinder’s website. To ensure the accuracy and quality of information provided for each agency, resources will not appear online until a staff member has verified that all is correct. So users will experience an initial delay as Pathfinder staff check each agency being added to the database.

“Our Pathfinder toll-free helpline staffed by our knowledgeable specialists is a crucial part of our service,” Hart said, “so we’re delighted that this new partnership has allowed us to increase the individualized support available to those who call or email.”

In August 2015, Sarah Kassas joined Pathfinder as a bilingual information and referral coordinator.

“Since Pathfinder is always seeking to improve its reach to individuals with disabilities throughout the state, Sarah is a great addition to our staff since she’s fluent in English and Arabic,” said Hart.

Kassas’s role is to help connect individuals with disabilities, their support networks, and public/private agencies to appropriate resources in Tennessee, to provide training presentations, to assist with maintaining Pathfinder’s online database of resources, and to serve as a liaison to Tennessee Department of Health.

“Sarah is a tremendous asset to our team. Not only do her language capabilities enable us to better serve a significantly underserved population, but her compassion and commitment to those she serves play important roles in helping them overcome some of the challenges they face,” Hart said.

This new partnership between Tennessee Disability Pathfinder and the Tennessee Department of Health follows Pathfinder’s other successful partnerships with the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

“With the support of these partners, we’re proud of Pathfinder’s continuous growth in serving as a statewide information and referral program for individuals with all types of disabilities, all ages, and all nationalities,” said Elise McMillan, J.D., co-director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and Pathfinder faculty director. “We aim to continue building upon Pathfinder’s success by developing new partnerships that will lead to more individuals, families, and agencies accessing resources in their communities.”

Pathfinder’s toll-free helpline is 1-800-640-4636; locally 615-322-8529; email Pathfinder’s website includes Camino Seurgo, a searchable database of agencies with staff bilingual in English and Spanish. Pathfinder staff can access translation services for multiple languages.

Megan Hart is director of Tennessee Disability Pathfinder. Kimberly Lynn Jones is Pathfinder’s social media coordinator.

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