Lost and Found

By Rob Banaszak on September 6, 2013 in Access2Care

Author-webBy Nucrisha Stone Plowden
Health Navigator,  Amida Care

I was recently asked to write about my experiences as a Health Navigator for Amida Care.  Amida Care, a grantee of AIDS United’s Access to Care Initiative, is a Medicaid health plan specifically designed for people living with HIV/AIDS in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island, New York.  Amida Care’s “Live Life Plus” mission is to provide access to comprehensive care and coordinated services that facilitate positive health outcomes and general well-being for its members.

The Health Navigator is a key component of Amida Care’s access to care work.   Because of the success of our Health Navigator Program, we have been able to expand the number of Health Navigators from three to seven, giving us even greater capacity to help our members get reconnected to the care they need.  This can still be a bit of a challenge, though, as shown through a recent experience with one of our members.

First appearing on my “lost-to-care”  list (meaning I had to search for him), this member was a young man of 22 who had little knowledge of the HIV virus that he had been infected with. Having been diagnosed at age 15, he admitted he had never taken any of the medications prescribed. Because of the resistance he was developing to treatment, he began to experience early stages of renal disease, along with a low CD4 count and high viral load.  He had only kept a few appointments throughout the year, but not enough to maintain his health. I educated him on some basic facts about disease and treatment and explained how crucial it was for him to visit with his doctor regularly and to take his medication.  He expressed he wasn’t sure if he wanted to get care in a hospital because the setting was so overwhelming to him. He felt he wanted to experience something new, maybe some place smaller. I asked him to revisit the clinic and assured him that I would escort him and advocate for him. I just wanted him to be sure of any decision that he made.

Access-to-Care-Team--NYC-webThe clinic staff was surprised to see him return for an appointment, as this patient has been hard to engage. Fortunately, as a Navigator, I had the time to look for him. Not only did I have the time, but I refused to give up.  After a few more visits he made up his mind to transfer his care to another facility. He wanted to see what it would be like to have care in a private setting as opposed to a large hospital.  He made the decision and I was proud that he was being accountable for his health care.

My intention is to do what is best for the patients, and to respect their wishes.  We work to empower our members — mentally, emotionally and physically — to educate them about their health and all available health services and connect them with community services to enhance their overall functioning.

In the end, this member learned self-preservation, obtained a greater sense of self-esteem and was able to tap into personal strengths that he had been unaware of. He took charge of his health and is taking his medication as prescribed daily and is working on getting his renal disease under control.

Many times I feel like I’m chasing ghosts and I beat myself up when I can’t find people, but cases like this make it all worth it and I am reminded that the work we do is impacting lives.

 Amida Care is a grantee of AIDS United’s Access to Care (A2C) Initiative


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