WV Health Right cares for adult patients who have no health insurance or who have Medicaid or Medicare. The clinic has a long-standing commitment to serve the working poor of our communities. We use the skills of physicians, dentists, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other medical professionals who volunteer their time and talents. Patients must qualify for services and are seen free of charge. WV Health Right operates on the philosophy that every person is entitled to quality health care regardless of personal finances or insurance status.
The impact the clinic has on its patients is real. Here are just a few of their stories…
HARD WORK, MOTIVATION REVERSES DIABETES DIAGNOSIS
What started as a desperate attempt to get diabetes testing supplies ended up having a profound impact on one East End family.
“I was admitted to the hospital because my heart was racing and I was getting really lightheaded,” said April, a stay-at-home mother of five children, ages 10-18. “They didn’t know what was going on at first. That’s when I found out that I was diabetic.”
According to April, who has Medicaid, she was discharged from the hospital the next day with a glucometer, 10 test strips, a one-page fact sheet about diabetes, and a prescription for additional testing strips and lancets. “When I went to the pharmacy to get more strips, they told me that Medicaid wouldn’t pay for them,” said April. “Do you know how much those cost?”
“I didn’t know what to do,” continued April. “I didn’t know how I was going to get the strips. I didn’t know if I should eat or not or what food was good or bad for me. I was pretty upset. That’s when I came to Health Right. My mom was a patient here, so I knew they helped people. When I walked in, Mandy was working at the front desk. I told her what was going on and she told me that she could help me. I waited for about 10 minutes, and Mandy came out and handed me a new meter, strips, lancets, a stack of papers about diabetes, and a health education calendar. I was at the diabetes class the next day.”
Since August 2015, April has lost 30 pounds, her A1C has dropped to pre-diabetic range, she is off of her diabetes medication completely, and all of her other lab results have improved dramatically.
“I credit Health Right with helping me live healthier,” said April. “It might seem silly now, but when I used to read labels on food, I only looked at the calorie content. I didn’t check the cholesterol, fiber, sodium, and sugar content. I didn’t know what to look for or what it all meant.”
When asked about what’s different about WV Health Right, April was quick to reply. “It’s all about education here,” she said. “Everyone else just wants to give you medicine. I don’t want to be on medicine my whole life. And what I learned in class not only helped me, but it actually helped my youngest son.”
When April’s son, who is 12 years old, was diagnosed with pre-diabetes two months ago, she took quick action. “I knew what I needed to do for him,” said April. “I started cooking for the entire family the way they showed us in class and in no time, his glucose levels were back to normal range. Now I feel like I’m almost committing child abuse when I give my kids stuff with sugar in it,” she said with a laugh.
“April is a perfect example of how lifestyle changes can dramatically impact your health in so many ways,” said WV Health Right Executive Director Angie Settle. “April is a leader in the clinic’s health education classes now, mentoring some of our newer patients, and sharing her story of success. She’s a real inspiration.”
SCALE WEIGHT-LOSS CLASS HAS AMAZING RESULTS
WV Health Right patients who are enrolled in the SCALE (Sustainable Change And Lifestyle Enhancement) weight loss program, funded by AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation, have seen some impressive results. One year after the start of the program, all of the 52 enrollees lost weight, resulting in an average weight loss of 18.3 pounds per patient. Further, every patient had a drop in body mass index (BMI) with 69% dropping 2 or more points.
These results are even more dramatic because, unlike other chronic conditions that can be treated and controlled with medication therapies, these goals were achieved solely through lifestyle changes. Additionally, 98% of SCALE participants have shown improvement in other cardiovascular risk factors (e.g., A1C, lipids, triglycerides). Three of the ten patients who used tobacco quit during the project period and remain tobacco free while hospital visits decreased by 80% for SCALE participants compared to the previous year’s emergency room and in-patient hospitalizations for this group.
“We are very proud of our patients for all the success they’ve achieved through the SCALE program so far,” said Angie Settle, Executive Director of WV Health Right. “Their average age is 54 years old, so poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyles, and cultural norms are highly ingrained in this group.”
MARK’S STORY – “HEALTH RIGHT SAVED MY LIFE”
While many people have secured health insurance through the expanded Medicaid program or the Health Insurance Marketplace, there are still tens of thousands of West Virginians who remain uninsured. “Mark” is one of those uninsured adults who fell through the cracks.
“I’ve had health insurance in the past, but I’m unemployed right now,” said Mark. “I’m in my mid-50’s now, so not having health insurance is pretty scary. I started having chest pains and told my sister about it. She insisted that I come to WV Health Right. Thank goodness I listened to her.”
When Mark came to the clinic, he was evaluated by the medical team and was given a series of tests to determine the cause of his pain. A quick referral to a volunteer cardiologist confirmed what he had feared: Mark had a 99% blockage in an artery that, if left untreated much longer, would have meant certain death. He was immediately scheduled for cardiac surgery to address the issue. During follow-up care at the clinic, he was also enrolled in Medicaid by a staff member dedicated to connecting Health Right patients to the program.
“The people at WV Health Right saved by life, no doubt,” said Mark. “If my sister wouldn’t have told me about the free clinic, I know I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor because I could have never been able to afford it on my own. I really dodged a bullet this time.”
With his new Medicaid coverage, Mark has piece of mind knowing that he won’t suffer financially when he needs to see a healthcare professional.
“I didn’t know that I was eligible for Medicaid, or that I could go to Health Right since I didn’t have insurance. I feel so blessed that Health Right was there for me in my time of need,” said Mark.
FOR SOME CLINIC PATIENTS, IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR
“I’ve been a patient at WV Health Right for years,” said Cathy Moss, 57, who visited the clinic recently with members of her family. “Until just a few months ago, I was the only member of my family without health insurance. Now I have Medicaid. But I’m still a patient of Health Right and I’ve been going to diabetes classes and most of the other classes for a long time now.”
As a long-time patient, Cathy said she doesn’t know what she would have done without the free clinic. And the education she has received over the years is presently playing an even more crucial role in her healthcare. Recently diagnosed with Stage 3 kidney failure, Cathy found out that her diabetic diet wasn’t good for her kidneys.
“When you have diabetes, you want a diet that’s high in protein,” said Cathy. “But, unfortunately, the kidneys don’t like all that protein. I went back to class because I needed someone to tell me what to do – someone to guide me along the way so I didn’t feel so hopeless.”
A resident of Tornado in western Kanawha County, Cathy, her 64 year-old Medicare-insured husband Calvin, and their 17 year-old son Shane drive almost 30 minutes from their home several times a month to attend a new weight loss program, SCALE, funded by the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation.
“I signed up for the new SCALE class in January because I had already started to lose weight and I wanted to keep it up,” said Cathy. “I wanted to keep my blood pressure and my diabetes under control.” In March, Cathy had an acute embolic stroke. Fortunately, she doesn’t have many long-term side effects from it but it really hit home how important lifestyle changes are for her.
For years, Cathy’s husband Calvin, a cardiac patient himself, would sit in the car and wait for her while she was at the clinic. Calvin finally decided to come to the SCALE class because he was having trouble breathing and walking. Cathy kept telling him that the classes were good and that the people were friendly.
“I didn’t really think the classes were for me,” said Calvin. “But when I kept seeing how much Cathy liked them, and the fact that the teachers encourage family members to come, I thought I’d try it. I feel a whole lot better – and I’ve lost almost 10 pounds.”
Their son, Shane, also likes to come to the classes although he’s in good health. “I like older people and I like to do some of the activities,” said Shane. “And I’ve gotten to try some food that I’ve never tried before. I especially like the kale smoothies that they’ve made for us.”
“The thing I like most about the class is learning to cook differently and trying different kinds of food,” said Cathy. “I tried guacamole for the first time the other day and I loved it. Sometimes when you have a certain amount of money to spend on food, you don’t always want to buy something that’s more expensive because you might not like it, especially if you’ve never tried it before. But I’ve started changing my methods of cooking, switching to olive oil instead of vegetable oil and things like that. We’re learning.”
In addition to these changes, the family has also started going to Nautilus together. The clinic gave Cathy and Calvin a membership, and they purchased a membership for Shane for a modest monthly fee. They regularly exercise on a treadmill and stationary bike as well as working out on some of the weight equipment.
“We are so grateful to Health Right for all they’ve done for me over the years,” said Cathy. “I tell everybody I know about the SCALE class. It’s been a blessing for our family.”
David has been a WV Health Right patient for several years. He is a severe diabetic who is often non-compliant due to his difficulty remembering medication schedules and appointments; in fact, he oftentimes shows up at the clinic with life-threatening medical crises such as glucose levels above 500. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a blessing to many low-income West Virginians who now qualify for expanded Medicaid, for others like David, it has been a frightening and daunting challenge.
“When David qualified for Medicaid, he was scared that WV Health Right would no longer be able to take care of him. The staff worked hard to reassure him that he could continue to come to the clinic for his medical care and treatment,” said Ethel Brown-Courts, medical assistant. “He has transportation issues coupled with serious medical issues so getting to another medical facility presented a real challenge for him.”
David’s situation reinforces that WV Health Right made the right decision to become a Medicaid provider…many of our patients would face significant challenges trying to find a new medical home, complying with treatment plans, resolving transportation constraints, and navigating the healthcare system in general. Our newly insured Medicaid patients have experienced a seamless transition from uninsured to insured and are grateful that they can continue to receive care at WV Health Right.