Policy As A Prescription

Articles | January 22 2015

Misty was suicidal the last time she went to the emergency room, with high blood pressure, hernias, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addictions to both drugs and alcohol. It was not her first visit to the E.R. in recent months, but it was on this visit that she met Kimberly.

Kimberly is officially a community outreach specialist for PrimaryHealth, a managed care provider for Medicaid patients in Oregon. But in practice, Kimberly has been so much more to Misty: hospital visitor, transportation coordinator, and art teacher, to name a few of her roles.

Before she was enrolled in PrimaryHealth, Misty says, “I didn’t care whether I was living or dying. I’m the type of addict that I knew my medications would [interfere] with getting loaded…and I didn’t want that to happen.” But she eventually accepted help and went through detoxification, inpatient treatment for both mental health issues and addiction, and a stay in a women’s group home, all with Kimberly’s support.

The idea behind PrimaryHealth specialists like Kimberly is to go beyond clinical treatment to provide social support and remove barriers to health that exist because of  patients’ socioeconomic situation or where they live. PrimaryHealth allows Kimberly access to funds to solve clients’ non-medical obstacles to treatment, which she used to buy a bus pass and taxi fare so that Misty could travel to a training program that was 30 miles away. Kimberly also taught Misty how to paint as a way to calm her and distract her from cravings.  “I never heard of people doing what Kim does, going to these extremes…I feel really good now. I feel better than I’ve ever felt,” says Misty.

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