January 2nd, 2019
A big part of what makes AccessHealth Spartanburg so effective in improving health outcomes is the holistic approach it uses. In addition to assessing clients’ medical conditions, AccessHealth Spartanburg helps people who need assistance with housing, transportation, obtaining SNAP benefits, substance abuse counseling and mental health care, among many services.
Often, mental health problems such as depression and anxiety accompany and can compound debilitating and/or life-threatening physical conditions. AccessHealth Spartanburg’s team is trained to evaluate more than just a person’s medical needs. AHS care navigators are able to spend the time to get to know their clients and gain a deep understanding of their challenges, building a trusting relationship that leads to a comprehensive plan, consistent follow-through and better outcomes.
Rodney Johnson suffers from congestive heart failure, and credits AccessHealth Spartanburg for being able to have a life-saving defibrillator put in his chest. His health problems date back several years, to about the time his son was murdered in 2014. His then-unknown heart disease and an undiagnosed case of pneumonia, followed by the loss of his job, led to repeated trips to the ER. For 2 ½ years, Johnson’s physical health worsened — as did his mental health.
“The only time I received medical attention was at the emergency room,” Johnson said. “There, they are just trying to ‘put a Band-Aid on it’ and get you out, so I would never have enough meds or get treated properly or seen regularly. My condition wasn’t monitored, and I became very depressed. There was always a will to fight but I still felt like I was fighting a losing battle and was ready to give up. I was feeling defeated.”
In February 2017, Johnson was admitted again for the same symptoms, but this time it was discovered he also had developed a kidney problem. During that visit, he was connected to AccessHealth Spartanburg.
“It was a different energy,” Johnson said. “I finally felt like someone cared. From the moment I walked into AccessHealth, things happened and progressed and got so much better. I now had the meds I needed and was able to get them regularly. I was finally able to see a cardiologist and I had that defibrillator put in my chest. The program has just been a lifesaver and has given me, and my children as well, something to believe in again.”
Johnson explained that he had distanced himself from his children because he “didn’t want them to see me like that. There were times they would ask me questions that I had no answers for. And now I’m able to give them something because I have answers.
“I would start to feel like a burden, and that can drag you down. I wouldn’t hurt myself, but I was exhausted with life. I would strive to be strong for my situation but would see panic or despair in my family’s faces, and that would make it harder for me. Since I’ve been with AccessHealth, the communication with my children and my mom has improved. They’re still concerned, but I can tell them about recent or upcoming doctor’s visits and plans and it gives them a sense of ease.
“Another thing made available to me was the opportunity to go to (therapy). I had been on my own since I was twelve and I always had this tough exterior – you’ve got to be tough to survive. All the things that were going on … I no longer provided like I was used to providing, and I felt like less of a man. I was really down. I just know that I am in a completely different place today, and I really don’t know that I would be here if it wasn’t for this program.”
Echoing what many AccessHealth Spartanburg clients say, Johnson credits his care navigator, Sheri, with making the difference.
“A lot of time people become overwhelmed and things come down to becoming just numbers. Sheri takes a genuine interest in what she’s doing, never gave me any room to become discouraged, and asked a million questions for clarity and communication to make sure I was getting the attention I needed. I’m really grateful for that.”
“Being in the program has impacted my life and given me the space to see what’s important. Sometimes we get caught up in perceptions of what our life is as opposed to what it really is, and the program at AccessHealth allowed me to weed through that, to see what is going on, and to feel confident. It has given me a sense of hope. And that hope is making as much of a difference in my health as anything.”