A year of Findhelp data tells a compelling story

Melanie Dallas headshot

By Melanie Dallas, LPC

In January 2023 Highland Rivers Behavioral Health announced a partnership with Findhelp, an online social care platform that allows people to search for area resources by zip code. Using Findhelp, community members can find local providers for such things as food assistance, housing assistance, legal help, employment opportunities, healthcare and more (all of Highland Rivers’ programs are listed on the site).

Highland Rivers invested in this resource because as a public safety-net agency, the individuals and families we serve often have other priority needs – perhaps food or housing insecurity, or medical or dental care – and Findhelp allows our clinicians, case managers and other team members to identify services, and to make referrals right through the platform.

Another important part of this partnership is our ability see the types and locations of the searches that are made. Even though searches are anonymous, our agency can gain tremendous insights into the most common needs of our local communities and how those needs vary across the counties we serve.

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We’ve recently compiled the Findhelp search data from all of 2023, from Highland Rivers’ public Findhelp site (https://highlandrivers.findhelp.com/), and a staff-only site team members use when working with individuals receiving services from our agency. The data is both interesting and compelling.

There were 8,661 total searches on Highland Rivers’ Findhelp sites in 2023. Housing was the largest category of searches during the year, accounting for nearly 35% of all searches. The most common search term was “Help find housing,” though others – “Temporary shelter,” “Help pay for housing,” “Housing vouchers,” and “Long-term housing” – were also very common. This was not entirely surprising given the challenges of the housing market in Georgia, but is a clear indication that housing remains a top need in almost every county we serve.

Looking at county-level search data is also interesting for several reasons. Although the top three need categories in each of Highland Rivers’ 13 counties were housing, healthcare and food, there are several variations.

For example, while housing is the most common category of need in several counties, it is not in all counties. Healthcare was the most common search category in Cherokee and Gilmer counties, and food was the most common category in Murray County. And, while food is a common search category, there is a wide variation among counties: food accounts for 31% of searches Murray County, but only 7.5% of searches in Pickens County (the latter where a full 53% of searches in 2023 were related to housing).

Also interesting are the less-common search terms that might show up in only one or two counties, such as “Detox” (Whitfield), “Home buyer education” (Polk), “Child care” (Paulding and Fannin), and “Domestic violence services” (Haralson). “Help paying for internet or phone” was searched several times in both Fannin and Floyd counties.

Again, individual searches are anonymous – we can’t even see the zip code in which searches originate – and we have no way of knowing if the individuals we serve are the same ones searching our Findhelp site. But we do know that many of those we serve have needs consistent with those searches. We also know the ability to see more than 8,600 searches over a 12-month period provides invaluable insights.

Ultimately, knowing what needs exists, and where, allows our staff to anticipate the potential challenges facing those we serve, to identify what resources are available locally, and to refer our individuals to those other resources. We are also able to coordinate with key partners in all of the communities we serve in order to meet the needs of the local population. Being able to do that benefits the individuals we serve, and enhances our role as a safety-net provider and community partner.

You can learn more about Highland Rivers’ Findhelp partnership, and see county-level search data, in our FY23 annual report, available online at https://highlandrivers.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Highland-Rivers-Behavioral-Health-FY2023-Annual-Report.pdf.

Melanie Dallas is a licensed professional counselor and CEO of Highland Rivers Behavioral Health, which provides treatment and recovery services for individuals with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities in a 13-county region of northwest Georgia that includes Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Floyd, Fannin, Gilmer, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk and Whitfield counties.

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