A UNIQUE PROGRAM TO HELP THOSE NEWLY DIAGNOSED WITH HIV/AIDS OR HAVE FALLEN OUT OF CARE
Care Resource’s Peer Connector program funded by State of Florida, Department of Health, supports clients who are newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, have fallen out of medical care or are facing obstacles to engage in medical care, such as language barriers, literacy, mental health, substance abuse, financial issues, homelessness and relocation.
This program, not only provides clients with the resources to meet their needs and to decrease barriers, but also a support system focused on empowerment, self-sufficiency and a healthy and productive lifestyle.
This program is part of a national effort called “High Impact Prevention.” The objective is to ensure early entry into care and adherence to medical treatment to improve the health of those living with HIV/AIDS and to reduce the possibility of transmitting the virus to someone else.
This program focuses on linking clients to care by using Peer Connectors to walk the client through the initial process. The Peer Connectors assist clients that are newly diagnosed, lost of care, or at risk of being lost of care. The Peers can relate to the client because they have been through that process and can not only help the client, but also give advice on how to deal and cope with certain situations. The Peers also serve as an advocate for the client.
“Some clients don’t know where to go or how to access services. We help “navigate” the client through the initial process of going through eligibility through the Ryan White Program; meeting with the Medical Case Manager; seeing a doctor; and being referred to various services. Since January 2015, there were 355 clients enrolled in the Peer Connector Program. Out of those 355 clients, 325 are engaged in care.” – Care Resource Peer Connector
There are several clients that come into Care Resource and are homeless/displaced. These clients that come into the Peer Connector Program are referred to a housing case manager in the agency and will be assisted with shelter.
MENTAL / SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Peer Connectors also link clients to different services that the client needs. Some clients may have mental health or substance abuse issues. The Peer Connector will perform an intake with the client; find out his/her needs; and refer the client to whatever need or service they are requesting.
Some clients may have difficulty with acquiring health insurance or with changing their health plans in order to be seen by a doctor. The Peer Connector refers the client to a health insurance specialist, provides education on safer sex practices to prevent the transmission of HIV. Peer Connectors also collaborate with outside agencies like: Poverello’s, BOC Hollywood and Pompano, the Broward County Jails and the Florida Department of Health in Broward County.
The Patient Connector Program benefits the client by letting them know that they have a support system. The Peer Connector is there to walk the client through the process and let them know that he/she is not alone and to make sure that the client is linked to care properly. The Peers are there for emotional support. They also accompany clients to medical appointments as well as Ryan White eligibility appointments. In fact, they even teach bus routes. For clients that are not able to attend Ryan White eligibility appointments; the Peer Connectors have brought the appointments to the client’s home for assistance.
EXAMPLES OF CARE
The Peer Connectors go above and beyond for their clients on a consistent basis. Here are just a few examples:
“I assisted a client who was lost of care and diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease. The client was afraid and didn’t know what to do. The client was almost hysterical and said that he needed assistance right away. I worked on getting the client seen by medical staff. The client already had their Ryan White Eligibility done too. I not only had the client’s labs done the same day, but the client was seen by a doctor.” – Care Resource Peer Connector
“I had a client that came in very weak and in need of food. The client was given a supermarket gift card. However, I noticed that the client was too weak to go there himself. I then took the client to the supermarket and let him use the gift card to pick up the needed food.” – Care Resource Peer Connector
“I assisted a client that couldn’t be seen because of a particular Medicaid plan that wasn’t accepted. I was able to obtain the proper phone number for Medicaid for the client and assist with changing their plan. The client was then able to be seen by our medical team.” – Care Resource Peer Connector
“I assisted a client that was having a severe anxiety attack. The client called while at home complaining of the attack and wanting to go to the emergency room, but was so uneasy and couldn’t call them. I called 911 after receiving verbal authorization. Afterward, I stayed on the phone until the paramedics came. The client is now in medical care.” – Care Resource Peer Connector
For more information regarding Care Resource’s Peer Connector program, contact James Lecounte, Linkage & Retention Supervisor with Care Resource at 954-567-7141 x245, firstname.lastname@example.org
Care Resource is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that provides comprehensive primary medical and preventive care, including health, oral and mental health/substance abuse services to all individuals in our community. For more information visit, www.careresource.org.
The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.