Healthy Choices

Walk-up kiosk points Oak Park residents to health care, social services

Jennifer Yang, a Sacramento Covered navigator, writes a list of services on the chalkboard of the new WayUp kiosk in the Oak Park Community Center.
Jennifer Yang, a Sacramento Covered navigator, writes a list of services on the chalkboard of the new WayUp kiosk in the Oak Park Community Center.

Starting this week, visitors to the Oak Park Community Center need go only as far as the lobby to get referrals for health, wellness, nutrition, mental health and other social services.

That’s where the community center has set up a locally-designed kiosk, equipped with a pullout table, two chairs and a spread of free pamphlets and brochures. Intended as a human phone book of sorts, it will be staffed at least three days a week to direct people to available services, such as food banks, urgent care clinics and affordable housing programs.

People do not need to provide an ID card or even their name to receive guidance, just a ZIP code, said Jennifer Yang, a “health navigator” who staffed the kiosk this week.

Yang, a bilingual staffer with Sacramento Covered, one of the program’s sponsors, is especially focused on reaching Spanish-speaking families who may be wary of seeking help elsewhere.

“Anyone should feel comfortable approaching us,” Yang said.

Sandy Richardson, a mother of four who frequently visits the center, said the kiosk will help Oak Park’s low-income residents, many of whom do not own vehicles, to get the services they need.

“A lot of people are on welfare, and they don’t know how to get child care or how to deal with PG&E,” Richardson said. “There’s a lot going on in the community that people don’t know about and they should.”

The kiosk is a project of WayUp Sacramento, a community wellness initiative begun in 2011 by Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer. It primarily serves south Sacramento residents, many of whom are “underrepresented for the whole gamut of social services,” said Steve Kempster, executive director.

“Our hope is that through this sort of specialized referral system, people are more apt to connect with service providers in the community,” Kempster said. “Community members are wary of approaching different services providers. We’re hoping to break through that ice and promote healthy communities in Oak Park.”

The birch-and-redwood kiosk, crafted by local wood sculptor Douglas Adam Bradley, was constructed in two months, though the idea has been in the works for about two years. It officially opened Monday and will be staffed about 10-20 hours a week by an employee of Sacramento Covered, a local nonprofit focused on enrolling families in health insurance.

Also partnering in the project is WellSpace Health (formerly The Effort), which will provide access to health care and housing. Dignity Health provided a $150,000 grant, which will keep the kiosk running through this year, Kempster said.

Similar health care navigator programs are in place in Sacramento-area hospital emergency departments, providing caseworkers who help patients get access to preventive care.

It’s part of a wider movement to revitalize Oak Park, which was identified in 2012 as one of 15 ZIP codes in Sacramento County experiencing the most significant health disparities, according to a survey by the Sierra Health Foundation. It found that 43 percent of the community’s mostly black residents lack health insurance and about one-third lack a high school diploma. Single mothers living in poverty make up 46 percent of households.

WayUp kiosk at Oak Park Community Center

  • Address: 3425 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Sacramento
  • Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to noon; Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (subject to change)
  • Contact: (916) 808-6151