Courtesy of Outside In
Located across I-405 from Lincoln is Outside In, a federally-qualified health center that provides comprehensive care regardless of a person’s ability to pay. The clinic provides primary and behavioral health care, substance use treatment, meals, housing and education services.
Nicki Dardinger, Manager of Development and Communications at Outside In, says resources from Outside In are available to Lincoln students in need of support.
“For students, [Outside In] can see people ages 13 and up. In Oregon, students who are 13 and 14 are required to have a parent or guardian with them, but 15 and up students can come on their own to be able to see a medical provider,” said Dardinger.
As a part of their primary care services, patients can receive on-site labs, sports physicals, dental screenings, sexual health care and more. A large focus of the health care provided by Outside In is on gender-affirming care.
“We have a lot of patients who are transgender, gender non-conforming or members of the LGBTQ community. We provide things like hormones or referrals in the community for gender affirming surgery,” said Dardinger.
Additionally, people can receive behavioral health support for mental health and substance use through outpatient counseling, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT). For some of these services, youth need to be a part of the Homeless Youth Continuum, which requires a screening process that can be completed at the Outside In location near to Lincoln. Once involved in the continuum, youth ages 16-24 can access more comprehensive services from Outside In than the general population.
Outside In also offers programs surrounding education and employment services.
“We provide support with college applications, scholarships and also will support students all through college through additional tutoring and coaching,” said Dardinger. “Our goal is to really support students so they don’t have to pay. We have some flexible scholarships and help fill out the FAFSA form. All of those pieces that students need.”
While getting support with their education, students can be connected to wraparound services such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, housing programs or paid internships.
“We have a job readiness program to help students think through their options and get ready to work. We also do a lot of short term work experiences or internships that are all paid. This allows students to explore a variety of careers and jobs,” said Dardinger.
Mary Johnson, the Lincoln school nurse, has referred students to Outside In for a variety of reasons. One of the main supports they have provided is insurance assistance.
“Sometimes I’ll have students who don’t have insurance, in which case they would qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, but they really need help setting it up. It’s complicated,” said Johnson.
The Oregon Health Plan (OHP) provides health care coverage to many low-income families, but it is difficult to navigate. Outside In provides enrollment assistance at no cost, helping people file for OHP, check the status of an application and more.
Johnson recognized that a common issue students face when accessing support from Outside In stems from nervousness regarding the amount of tents and people living outside.
“Some people felt a little intimidated, because there’s a lot of tents out front [and] a lot of people walking in just look a little less typical than Lincoln High School students. But once you get in the door, it’s just a really safe feeling clinic,” said Johnson.
Dardinger encourages students to push past that unease and for community members to recognize unhoused peoples’ humanity.
“Remember that folks who are unhoused are our neighbors too, and they just happen to be our neighbors who are living their lives outside. Treat them with kindness. They are people that have dignity and should be respected for who they are,” she said.“Homelessness is not someone’s identity, it’s a circumstance that they find themselves in. It’s a state that they’re in but it’s not who they are as people.”
To support Outside In, Dardinger asks Lincoln students to learn more about houselessness.
“There are a lot of systemic reasons why an individual might be unhoused. We tend to look at it as if it was their fault as an individual, but we have real systemic issues that are bigger than just one person’s fault,” she said.
Additionally, students can donate to Outside In by purchasing items off of their Amazon wishlist or checking out the “Donate” tab at Outsidein.org for more information.