This article is from one of SWACH’s partners, Washington Gorge Action Programs.
Bingen, WA (August 25, 2021) – When a system works as designed and allows someone to provide the highest level of service, it can bring immense satisfaction, especially when it enables someone to help another human being improve their quality of life.
Recently, a local man was in dire need. He had debilitating knee problems stemming from the physical work of a four-decade career in the orchards, but he did not have the resources to correct the issue. The team at Pathways HealthConnect answered the call.
The referral came in through Dr. Erica Didier, a local family medicine practitioner at Skyline Hospital. She knew the man’s health concerns were complicated by a language barrier, lack of financial resources, and cultural differences. Teresa Obregon, a Community Health Worker, took his case.
As a former social worker, Obregon now works for Washington Gorge Action Programs (WAGAP) as part of Pathways. She joined the team a year ago, as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were wreaking havoc on the world’s medical and social systems. Her job is to link participants with various services and help them alleviate stress to improve their health.
There are special days in a person’s career that make it worthwhile, and the day this gentleman completed his first knee surgery and began his physical therapy was such a day for Obregon. She had helped him navigate numerous health issues that had to be tackled before surgery was even an option. He was on a limited income from Social Security. She worked with him to utilize Medicaid and Medicare to afford the procedures to get him back on the road to recovery.
“Most times when cases come in for one situation, it is much broader than that,” said Obregon. He was not an exception. Although referred for knee surgery, a deeper dive into his health history revealed he had Type II Diabetes and had already suffered complications, which put him at high risk. He needed to take control and improve his health before he would be eligible for the procedure.
Obregon had also previously worked as a nursing assistant and a certified Spanish interpreter. As a native of Colombia, she understood many of the cultural differences he was having in trying to understand all that the doctors were asking him to do. She teamed up with him to create a plan. Her goal was to look at everything holistically so he would have the best chance for success.
She helped him schedule appointments and translated instructions for him. She helped him navigate insurance and locate local doctors that accepted Medicare/Medicaid for dental and vision care. She helped him understand the instructions for maintaining a healthy diet and the importance of taking his medications to maintain a low blood sugar level and keep his diabetes under control. And she helped him connect with the business office at the hospital where he had a previous bill to work out a payment plan.
Pathways helped alleviate stress, put a plan in place, and an advocate in his corner.
His quality of life dramatically improved. When he first went to see Dr. Didier, it looked like his career was over, but now he is excited for his future and set a long-term personal goal to return to work. He took control of his health and his life.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We work with people as people,” Obregon said, adding that her time as a social worker has served her well in this role. “People respond better when you are more peaceful when you have the education and the information,” she said.
Pathways has five Community Health Workers including those who represent Latino and Native communities. Two phone lines are available, 509-261-1291 (English) and 509-281-2331 (Spanish). WAGAP can also connect someone to Pathways at their offices in Bingen, Goldendale, and Stevenson.
Washington Gorge Action Programs (WAGAP) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit Community Action Agency that helps individuals, families, and communities. WAGAP addresses basic human needs, including food, shelter, energy assistance, and much more, in Skamania and Klickitat Counties. For more than 50 years, WAGAP has helped people help themselves and reach self-sufficiency. Learn more at wagap.org, or contact WAGAP at (509) 493-2662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.