Christina Jones, BS, MSW Candidate
“We try to be holistic and I think that’s what we’re doing.”
A consult with a health care provider is not the only service patients receive at Neighborhood Clinic. Through a partnership with University of Washington Tacoma’s Masters in Social Work (MSW) Program, each year an MSW candidate provides social work services to our patients as part of their field work practicum. Christina Jones is our current and energetic social service expert. Services she provides to patients include facilitating referrals to free specialty and primary care through partners such as Pierce County Project Access; researching community resources and assisting patients in navigating them; helping to fill out financial assistance forms for other facilities we may refer patients to; and spending time listening to patients discuss their experiences and identifying their needs. Christina is available to assist patients in finding resources for all of their needs – mental health care, domestic violence support, food banks, family support services – so that patients may feel hopeful when they leave the clinic, not only about their immediate health concerns, but about their life circumstances overall.
Early in her career in service to the community, she completed a one-year AmeriCorps term in Pasadena, CA. As a teacher’s assistant at a special education school for emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children, many of whom were in foster care or were wards of the court, she witnessed the transformative power of social work intervention. Recalling the social workers taking students out for sessions, outings, and physical activities, she comments, “I noticed that’s where the real kind of change was happening, not in the classroom necessarily but with the social workers.” Following her AmeriCorps term, she took on a caregiver job for children with autism. She loved the work and decided to apply for grad school. “Now, I’m pursuing my career in social work.”
New to Tacoma herself, Christina empathizes with patients who are struggling to find resources, or who are just passing through or new to the area. “I understand that experience of not really knowing what’s around and needing help to figure it out.” Growing up in a low-income household, she recalls that access to or affordability of health care was not discussed often. “Doctor visits were few and far between…I know that there’s definitely some fear around going to the doctor’s office, just because you usually have to pay for it and that can be nerve-wracking.”
There is a pervasive myth that with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is no place for free clinics anymore. Christina points out that “we’re an example of how that’s not true. We see patients every Monday and Thursday night. There’s a part of the community that is a little bit invisible, so to say, and if we forget about that part of the population then we’re not seeing the whole picture. People are definitely still in need, and not everybody is eligible for the Affordable Care Act, so we definitely still need free urgent care, primary care, emergency care.”
Her service at Neighborhood Clinic has also been educational for her. She considers herself a young, healthy person and notes that others in the same category often don’t dwell on their health or seek out medical attention. Seeing the need of patients at Neighborhood Clinic is eye-opening, as is gaining an understanding of what health care policy means for everyone. “There are mass implications for health care that I didn’t even know.”
Often, the stigma attached to seeking free attention causes people to hesitate to access services; and many people feel that although they can’t afford to seek medical attention, they don’t want to “take a spot away” from someone who “needs it more.” Christina’s message: “As a person…your need is just as important! Please come…come and check us out, and get your needs met. You’re not taking anyone’s spot. All are welcome.”
She continues, “Neighborhood Clinic is a great place to be, honestly. I know it sounds cliche, people always say that, but everyone is so welcoming and we honestly have patient’s interests at heart, and I can see that in our outreach team, I see that in triage, I see that in all the volunteers who come…a wonderful place to be.”
Neighborhood Clinic thanks Christina for her energy, compassion and time in serving our patients while still working full time and going to school. She makes a difference in the lives of so many in our community. Tacoma is privileged to have her!