Franklin County agencies are partnering together to help provide information for residents.

The new program — which is being facilitated by the Franklin County Health Department — is in its infancy and came through a grant. The health department was awarded a Kansas Department of Health and Environment for $30,458 targeting opiate misuse/abuse in the county. The department took that a few steps further.

“This is different,” Robert Walker, Franklin County Health Department assistant director, said. “Part of it is implementation of a county-wide referral system. It is called IRIS (Integrated Referral Intake System).”

The past few weeks, he met with several agencies and so far 14 have expressed interest.

“It makes the county cohesive,” he said. “How it ties in with substance abuse is substance abuse creates other needs. It creates opportunities [to help them]. It is a different strategy.”

Walker said those agencies interested will be set up with the web site that will have information such as where are all the food banks, list of health professionals, mental health professionals, counselors, etc.

“It helps everybody to know what we have to offer,” Walker said. “What it provides on a screen is everybody that is participating. This is a way the health department can serve by securing some funding and be able to work with partners. The intent is to make sure the needs of the community are met. It is a way to help improve the health of the community. It is linking people to services.”

Walker said a launch date for the program is set for May 20.

“We are moving quickly,” he said. “We want to get it started.”

Walker said many times a person or family may not take that first step to receive help from a referral. He said the way the referral system works is that an agency meets with someone who needs service. The agency will go to the site and see where the help could come from and get their permission to send a referral.

“They would be notified by email,” Walker said.

Walker said the system would then show the progress of the referral with an Iris flower.

“When I send the referral over, a seed appears,” Walker said. “When [the agency] acknowledges and accepts the referral, a sprout appears. When the family gets served, an Iris appears. I know at every point if they made contact and when they made contact. I can look at how many referrals we make this month and how many got served. Each agency can do that.”

Walker said it provides for accountability and efficiency.

“It takes a lot of partners,” Walker said. “Some agencies are only going to send out referrals. It shows us where are the gaps. It takes the wondering out if somebody is receiving help. The community can benefit quickly.”