Community Resource Mapping in Chemung County
(October 2014) In 2013, The Chemung SOC team learned in a locally conducted survey that while people were mostly happy with the services they were receiving, many clients and staff at local community agencies didn’t know about all of the supports available in the community. To help with this issue, Chemung County Systems of Care decided to launch a new online resource to help residents find community based supports.
After seeing the results of their local survey, Brian Hart, Director of Community Services at the Chemung County Department of Mental Hygiene, wanted to find a solution to help clients and service professionals connect with a wide range of services on their own. Hart turned to Erie County for information on Arounja, the county resource mapping tool they were using, which was designed and implemented by Community Connections of New York in 2010. Ultimately, Chemung decided to use Arounja because of its user-friendly geographic map and the ability it gave service providers and community organizations to add or update information about their organization directly. This helped to eliminate the need for the county to routinely update it and addressed some issues with sustainability of the site. After coming to the decision to bring this software to the community, Chemung County SOC was able to purchase the software and related equipment using funds received from a NYS Success Innovation Grant and found additional funding to cover the maintenance and marketing of the service.
In developing the interactive Arounja map, the SOC team took a holistic, community-based view of natural supports in the area. They compiled a list of about 250 community groups, youth organizations, faith based organizations, mental health care providers, and primary care providers to include.
To announce the new site, Chemung SOC hosted a kickoff event in July, notified local news outlets, and created laminated flyers to be distributed around the community. Additionally, Chemung acknowledged that not all youth and families may have access to a home computer, and two computers were installed in the lobbies of the community’s primary mental health clinic and local drug and alcohol treatment clinic. Youth and families are able to use these computers solely to navigate the Arounja site and other county services websites. To further spread the word about the site, Chemung also invested in a Google Ad Words campaign to direct youth and families searching for human services or other community supports to the webpage.
Even in the first few months after the Arounja site and Chemung SOC’s continued work on building awareness of the site, they started to see encouraging results. There was strong media coverage after the kickoff and the computers linked to Arounja in the clinic lobbies have been popular since they were installed. Hart’s advice to other counties considering a similar type of resource map is to allow three to six months to create it, as it took a significant investment of time to get the funding, establish the site with staff from Aroundja, and market the website.