Realizing the Power of Technology to Connect Plainfield Residents

NJHI 2016: Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey – Communities Moving to Action, Round 2 Healthy Plainfield

These uncertain times where social distancing has moved us apart is when we need to be in closer communication. In the past, the Healthy Plainfield partner organizations have always addressed residents’ needs face-to-face, whether at the health department, library, bus stop, or school. Amid the COVID-19 health crisis, we were pressed to adapt and use new ways to connect with people. Similar to many resilient communities, the City of Plainfield and Healthy Plainfield have come together to support residents with innovative ideas to make sure that everyone has what they need.

One of the ways community organizations are staying connected is through our Healthy Plainfield coalition meetings, which have become more frequent. We convene twice per month to keep each other informed about the latest events. The coalition meets using a videoconference tool provided by United Way of Greater Union County (UWGUC). The transition to virtual meetings is new for many of us, but we continue to carry out our work to support our community. As we adopt this virtual approach to sharing knowledge, communication and resources, we are realizing the power of unexplored technology to connect us more closely. As an example, the Plainfield Public Library has launched an online chat to provide job search assistance. This is a crucial resource as several individuals are working fewer hours or facing layoffs.  In addition, the library is providing free, around-the-clock online resources such as interactive computer trainings, a variety of downloadable/streaming media options, and live reference assistance to library cardholders. The library is also using technology to renew patrons’ cards automatically, extend due dates for items that have been checked out, and to waive fines.

Another exemplar, Plainfield Public Schools, distributed iPads so that students would have access to the technology needed to complete assignments and participate in distance learning classes for the remainder of the school year. In addition, since many families do not have WiFi access, the school district purchased WiFi hotspots to support children’s access to online learning.  To provide information to Spanish-speaking residents, two Plainfield schools nurses are volunteering as COVID-19 Trackers and language interpreters.

Both the Plainfield Neighborhood Health Center and Hackensack Meridian Health offer telemedicine options for urgent care and emergency services. Through a collaboration between the City of Plainfield and the Neighborhood Health Center, telehealth platforms are being used to conduct COVID-19 screenings for Plainfield residents. Patients who may have been exposed to COVID-19 are then referred to the Union County testing site at Kean University. For individuals who do not have access to a car, a van can be sent to the patient’s home to perform the test.

To maintain open communication with residents, the City of Plainfield hosts weekly Facebook Live/ YouTube events to answer questions, and distributes weekly community newsletters with information such as the modified schedule for City Hall and its various online services, and application details for the municipal COVID-19 Relief Fund.

The United Way of Greater Union County maintains a Resources And Alerts page to provide our community with the latest COVID-19 related news and is developing a streamlined process to disburse its COVID-19 Emergency Fund dollars to community members.  

To learn more about the Healthy Plainfield coalition, visit our web page, or call the United Way of Greater Union County at (908) 353 7171.

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Tania Guaman
United Way of Greater Union County