How Friends For Health (FFH) Has Made A Difference
Click on the title to read success stories from the North Shore Health Center
Rhoda recently lost her job and with it – her health and dental insurance coverage. She has diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She takes medications daily and refills the medications on a monthly basis.
She was worried about where she would go to go for her medical care and how she would afford her costly medications.
She called the township office and they referred her to the health center in Highland Park run by the Lake County Health Department.
As soon as Rhoda heard “health department”, she envisioned a run- down clinic building with peeling paint and chairs with holes and rips in their cushions, substandard care, and uncaring staff.
Reluctantly she called and made an appointment. She was completely surprised and relieved when she walked into the beautiful health center!
The doctor and staff made sure that Rhoda received the best care possible. She was referred to a number of FFH funded programs.
- The Diabetes Prevention and Treatment Program was designed to help control her diabetes.
- Diabetes Education classes were offered at no additional cost.
- The FFH Medication Assistance Program help fund part of her costly medications.
- Exercise classes to lose weight and manage her blood sugars.
Even with insurance, she had never had her health needs so well addressed.
Due to her participation in FFH funded programs, her diabetes is under control. She is eligible for medical insurance coverage through the expanded Medicaid program Rhoda applied for medical and dental coverage through a case worker at the health center. She received notification that she could receive medical and dental coverage through the Expanded Medicaid program.
We received a call from a caseworker at a homeless shelter. Joe was unemployed and desperately looking for work to provide for his family of 6.
He had poor oral/dental care. He had not seen a dentist in over 10 years. His teeth were in terrible condition. This was affecting his ability to get a job interview and his ability to eat. It was impacting his confidence and ability to pursue potential opportunities.
We referred Joe to our comprehensive dental program.
He received a complete oral health exam. Due to the extent of his dental disease, he needed several appointments to address all his dental disease. These visits are costly, but with FFH’s support, Joe’s expenses were all covered.
Joe’s teeth could not be saved. He was fitted for a full set of dentures.
Due to the FFH-funded dental specialty care program, all of Joe’s appointments’ costs and the dentures were paid for. Joe was ecstatic – he could smile again, not be embarrassed and eat regular food! He has since found a job, moved out of the shelter and is taking care of his family.
Jasmine is 45 years old, without insurance, and has not been to the doctor for annual women’s health exams since her last child was born 9 years ago. She missed her baseline mammogram to screen for breast cancer at age 40. Jasmine had attended one of our FFH funded Promotoras de Salud (Health Promoters) educational events in the community. The topic was “Mammograms and Breast Health”. Jasmine decided after talking to one of the community health workers that she needed to schedule an appointment. Jasmine was referred to the health center.
At her appointment, she received a woman’s health exam and was scared and shocked when she returned for a follow-up visit. Her pap smear results showed she had abnormal cells.
She scheduled an appointment with the FFH funded Women’s Health Initiative clinic and had an additional procedure performed. This procedure would have been very costly if Jasmine had scheduled the procedure in a private doctor’s office.
Jasmine is so grateful that she had attended the lecture on Breast Health which alerted her to the need to make an appointment to see the doctor for these important screening tests.
This story is a good example of the need for education in the community. It’s also a testament to the strength of FFH funded programs and our vision to transform people’s lives by promoting health and wellness as well as access to important screening services.
After 4 ½ years, the Arenas family of four takes advantage of the gym membership that helped 15-year-old daughter Katie lose 80 pounds over 10 months. “A lot of people say they don’t recognize her and a lot of people are motivated when they see her,” Jenaro said. Like most teens, Katie is tempted with foods that are not very healthy and she may eat a slice of pizza a week, but the Highland Park High School soccer player said she also receives support from a friend her age at the health center.
Speaking through a translator, mother, Juana Conseco, said the entire family participates in the nutrition program as well as the gym membership through the health center in Highland Park. Junk food and soda pop is out. Baked foods, salads and fruits are in. And they all watch portion sizes. Juana said she tells her daughters they need to take care of their health because many members of her family have diabetes. “We are very thankful to the clinic,” she said.
She discovered she was diabetic in October and became pregnant in November so she was prescribed insulin right away. “I thought, if I’m on insulin now where am I headed as I get older,” she said. So the Highland Park resident started seeing a nutritionist at the health center in Highland Park to get her diet and weight under control, plus use a gym and recreation center membership offered through the health center. She lost 20 pounds while lowering her insulin medication, moving toward pills and eventually living without the drug.
“Without the health center, I wouldn’t have had any other options,” she said, adding that the cost for insulin was $90 a month plus the cost of syringes. The treatment received at the health centers give patients information so they can see what the next step ahead is for them, Mariaelena said. The gym membership has also benefited her high functioning autistic son, who participates in many activities at the gym. “Everybody there knows him.” Managing high blood sugar without insulin is just the first step for Mariaelena. Next, she said, is being healthy enough to discontinue her high blood pressure medication.
“It’s so convenient to have the programs here. People can walk or drive or take a short bus ride over,” Gaytan said through a translator. At age 50, he works in housekeeping and landscaping. Thanks to the care he receives, he is able to chew and enjoy his food before swallowing. “We leave the building very happy. The doctors are very professional. I am very grateful for the help I received.”
Dr. Juiris began her work in public health at a community health center in a small rural town in California. “I realized then that there were so many people in need.” She has been at the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center for 10 years. The challenges are many in treating public health patients, she said, explaining that the physician must ask a lot of questions because the patient will not ask the doctor questions. “They may go for years and not know they have diabetes.” Plus, a public health physician needs to be aware of patient issues such as transportation or someone not having money to make a payment, Juiris said.
Many of the newer patients coming to the health center are individuals who lost their jobs and are using public health for the first time because the cost for their primary care physician is too expensive, she said. Generally, treatment has evolved from addressing complications to preventative care, but the rewards for a physician continue to come from helping people in need, she said. “We are able to do so much for these people without insurance. I’ve seen people suffer and I believe we can make a difference.”