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Rural Health Information Hub

The Possibility Shop

Summary 
  • Need: To connect vulnerable populations in Allegany County, Maryland, to health and human services and to items like hygiene products, food, and clothing.
  • Intervention: The Possibility Shop partners with health organizations, insurance navigators, food banks, and other agencies.
  • Results: In 2023, 8,684 service encounters occurred and 501 intakes to services were performed.

Description

The Possibility Shop in Cumberland, Maryland, provides information and services to vulnerable populations. The Possibility Shop serves Allegany County, which has been recognized as rural by the state and received a federal exception in order to be classified as rural.

The Possibility Shop logo

Currently, over 26 organizations have partnered with the Shop, including:

  • Allegany County Health Department
  • Maryland Health Benefit Exchange
  • Western Maryland Food Bank
  • Maryland Legal Aid
  • Maryland Women's Health Center
  • Horizon Goodwill
  • Workforce development organizations
  • Other nonprofits and charities

The Possibility Shop is part of Maryland Area Health Education Center West (AHEC West).

Services offered

The Possibility Shop is staffed by community health workers and peer recovery specialists. It offers events and programming such as:

  • Connection to mental health resources
  • COVID-19 tests
  • Health insurance navigator
  • Full panel STI testing
  • Housing assistance
  • Safe medication storage
mess kit
Mess kit for people living outside.

Every day, the Possibility Shop offers:

  • Applications for Affordable Connectivity Program
  • Clothing
  • Connection to other agencies for services
  • Food
  • Harm reduction items, such as needle exchange, naloxone, and wound care kits
  • Health insurance navigation
  • Hygiene products
  • Outdoor survival equipment, such as tents, blankets, sleeping bags, and backpacks

Results

From January through December 2023, 8,684 service encounters occurred and 501 intakes to services were performed. The Possibility Shop currently averages visits from 46 unique individuals per day.

In 2023, 163 Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) phone applications were processed.

Since the implementation of harm reduction services at the Shop, 2,073 harm reduction services have been provided, including 342 naloxone kits distributed in the last quarter of 2023.

You can listen to a 4-minute interview with Cliff, a client:

Another client, Melissa, shares how the Possibility Shop helped her:

Challenges

An important challenge is maintaining supplies. Clients living outside often lose their belongings. The need for funding to purchase supplies is ever present.

Needle exchange and naloxone vending machine.

Clients often have difficulty in maintaining contact. This can result in incomplete warm handoffs or service applications. A very small minority of consumers exhibit behaviors that prevent The Shop from supporting them or allowing them access.

While many agencies providing important services have embraced the Possibility Shop, others have not. In some cases, the logistics don't work. In others, there is a resistance to participate.

Replication

Possibility Shop items display

Identify an anchor program or organization with sufficient resources to cover the rent and utilities and some staff. The Possibility Shop exists because its main funding source, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, has endorsed and encouraged this approach.

Identify people who are ready, willing, and able to work with the clients. Ideally, hire people with lived experiences similar to the clients.

Contact Information

Michael Francis, Communications Manager
AHEC West
michaelf@wmdhealthconnect.org

Topics
Community health workers
Food security and nutrition
Health insurance
Housing and homelessness
Human services
Infectious diseases
Sexual and reproductive health
Substance use and misuse

States served
Maryland

Date added
June 9, 2023

Date updated or reviewed
January 23, 2024

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2024. The Possibility Shop [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/1112 [Accessed 21 April 2024]


Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.