April 13, 2024

Navigating the healthcare system can be challenging for some families, especially when you or a loved one is medically vulnerable.

Genevieve Hale said she knows that challenge as her mom, Michele Harman, was diagnosed with lung cancer about a year and a half ago.

“She’s such a strong-willed, little feisty woman,” said Hale.

Harman’s being treated at Henry Ford Cancer Institute. The family’s been sticking close by during this journey.

“Dealing with this kind of stuff, you’ve got to be the rock,” Hale said. “You can’t cry. You can’t let a lot of emotions show because there’s people looking to you for strength.”

It was at Henry Ford Health Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion where Hale and her mom first met Community Health Workers like Verlycia Dixon. She describes Community Health Workers as part of the team’s critical circle of support.

Dixon said she stays busy in her role advocating for patients. Community Health Workers help patients navigate treatment plans and connect patients to a variety of resources like transportation, paying bills, emergency housing, financial education, and emotional support, among other things.

Dixon said, “Some people just need art therapy. Somebody to talk to. Sometimes, I’ve had patients call me up and just want to talk.”

You will not find Community Health Workers like Dixon across all health systems. However, the State of Michigan is working to change that.

This year, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services expanded Medicaid coverage to include Community Health Worker services. Now, because health systems could be reimbursed for some of the costs of these professionals, they’re optimistic the potential for hiring more Community Health Workers could be likely.

“I’m excited about it,” Dixon said. “With government support, that means maybe we’ll have access to more resources that we can provide for patients.”

According to staff, Henry Ford Health has been working toward expanding patient access to Community Health Workers since 2014. It’s a service Hale and her family said is making a difference.

“It feels like I can breathe now,” Hale said. “There’s somebody else, besides me, that I can go to for help.”

Dixon recommends patients who may need access to resources ask medical providers whether services from Community Health Workers or patient advocates are a resource offered at their health system.

Copyright 2024 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit – All rights reserved.

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