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Breaking Down Barriers

September 1, 2010

Single Stop is a non-profit program that recently partnered with CUNY to provide free referral services to students.

At BMCC, the Single Stop coordinator is Deborah Harte, a former social worker who, after years of working in child services for the City of New York, wanted a job that provided her with more personal student interaction—something she found at BMCC.

“I love speaking to the students; to have them come here and understand we are a staff that is caring and wants to be sure their needs are being taken care of,” she says.

Single Stop helps students find services that will help them file their taxes, open a bank account, pay for groceries, afford child care, obtain legal advice, health services and more.

Help with taxes

Single Stop connects low-income families and students to critical resources, support and services that help them overcome obstacles, move toward economic stability and ultimately achieve self-sufficiency,” says Harte. “My job is to negotiate referral services. I meet with directors so I can get to know the services, and screen them, so students have a positive experience with their services.”

Single Stop assesses a student’s benefit needs—which is called a ‘screening’— and refers them to an agency that can help them further.

For example, if a student needs help filing their taxes, they can come meet with Harte and her Single Stop staffers.  After hearing the student’s situation, Harte may then connect the student to the New York Food Bank, or another city agency. “The Food Bank works with us to file taxes and can take care of your paperwork for you,” she explains.

Single Stop also screens students seeking Food Stamps. “Single Stop can help prepare you for the Human Resources Administration (HRA) interview,” she says. “You’ll know the documents that you’ll need to provide to HRA, which is the Food Stamp office.”

Harte's Single Stop co-workers are Traci Belton and Karen Peterson, who ensure that students receive services that "we are offering in a courteous, expeditious manner," says Harte.  

Health assistance

According to Harte, access to healthcare is a major concern of students. Her staff has assisted students seeking government funded-health insurance. “In instances where they were not eligible for health insurance, we’ve sent these students to community-based organizations with a very low sliding fee, and to government-funded programs that operate in each borough that access health services for low rates, such as fifteen dollars for a routine check-up.”

To summarize the mission of Single Stop, Harte says, “If you’re sick and have no insurance, you can’t come to school. So, we’re really about breaking down the barriers and helping the student to receive the service, such as health care, so they can come and engage in class.”

Business major Evelyn Almonte came to Single Stop for a medical screening. “I didn’t feel threatened in the office at all. Deborah is a wonderful person and spent so much time with me.”

Almonte had a minor medical issue that required immediate attention, but wasn’t necessarily an ‘emergency.’ She had recently lost her job, and no longer had health insurance. Almonte, who heard about Single Stop in the Office of Financial Aid, explained her situation to Harte.

Harte did some research and suggested Almonte visit a specialist at Bellevue Hospital. She told Almonte she qualified for the HHC’s (New York City’s Health and Hospital Corporation) affordable healthcare option, in which a sliding-scale fee—which means you pay for a medical service based on your income—was available.

 “Harte and Single Stop can put you in contact with so many services. I even left the office with helpful employment information, since I’ll be looking for a new job,” says Almonte, who paid a sliding fee at Bellevue to have her medical need attended to. “Students should absolutely take advantage of many services Single Stop has to offer.”

Confidentiality agreement

Understandably, the issue of confidentiality is important to Single Stop. “We share the disclosure policy with students and the informative we gather from them is guarded in our computer system. We don’t keep a paper file on students,” says Harte. “In the event we have to share certain information, you would do it; like give your social security number to the HRA office.”

With students coming into her office day in and day out for free screenings, Harte gets to meet and aid students from all over the world. “It’s a real joy to provide students the opportunities they need,” she says. “It’s nice to see students leave my office feeling relaxed and hopeful since we’re on the road to addressing their needs to keep them in school.”

 

 

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Single Stop's free screenings aid students with healthcare options, tax filing, and more.
  • BMCC has a Single Stop office on-campus.
  • The coordinator, Deborah Harte, is a former social worker.

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