Meet “Marisol,” a newcomer to Great Barrington, who works part-time doing childcare and housekeeping. She has no health insurance. One day, Marisol’s severe asthma attack led to the hospital emergency room. She was stabilized, released and referred to Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Berkshires for further care.
At VIM, she was treated by a member of the medical staff and was referred to dental, vision and mental health services, as well as nutrition, acupuncture and therapeutic body work.
Marisol was also offered community health interventions for pre-diabetes, tobacco use, falls and hypertension through the Berkshire Partnership for Health. In a program VIM started last August, patients like Marisol are now screened for a host of “quality of life” issues. Patients might gain a referral to: local English as a Second Language classes; smoking cessation programs; coaching on job skills; legal help; as well as assistance with fuel, food, housing needs and language barriers, as needed.
Marisol also received advice and counseling on a wide array of other so-called “social determinants of health” – those crucial non-medical issues that directly impact a person’s life and health status.
VIM Berkshires is focused on attending to all aspects of a person’s life. It is difficult to deal with people clinically if there are other issues that need attention. Housing, food, fuel and transportation costs are a constant concern for so many VIM patients.
Attending to patient’s non-medical needs “is a way to empower people,” DeRuzzio says. “VIM’s approach is a very holistic way of looking at patients. It’s a lot more than just going to a health clinic. We are changing people’s lives.”
VIM Community Health Worker Natalia DeRuzzio, who evaluates patients’ needs, says that it is key to treat the whole person. Medical needs are estimated to account for only 40% of a person’s overall health status and quality of life.
~ shared with permission from VIM Berkshires.
VIM Berkshires in Great Barrington, MA, is a member of the VIM Alliance, a network of clinics developed with assistance from the national Volunteers in Medicine office that care for the uninsured within a caring supportive environment.