One of Starting Point Behavioral Health’s clients was 450 pounds and had no idea what contributed to his weight problem when he took a wellness class taught by Anna Dowling, a National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member. He began to cut out soda from his diet and has implemented a snack schedule to avoid meaningless eating. Anna promotes wellness through a holistic approach to recovery as part of her service, thus improving the life quality of the clients at Starting Point.
Starting Point Behavioral Health is a mental health and substance abuse recovery facility in Nassau County. Anna Dowling was the first member matched with Starting Point during the 2017-18 term to provide direct patient care services.
The program director who supervised Anna’s impact to the organization noticed that through Anna’s teachings, the clients are deeply engaged to learn and come to her sessions without any prompt. They have learned to reduce their sugar consumption, and they now identify nutritional information in their meals such as amount of carbohydrates and starches to eat healthier.
The National Health Corps Florida program is an initiative of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition, and members can benefit host sites through extra services that can be offered to help clients. They commit to a 1700-hour/46-week service term with public health-focused nonprofits and government organizations. An added pair of helping hands is an advantage to filling gaps in direct service by reaching and assisting more people. The mission of the National Health Corps is “to foster healthy communities by delivering and connecting those who need it most with health and wellness education, benefits and services, while developing tomorrow’s compassionate health leaders.”
Anna filled two specific service gaps at Starting Point. Care coordination activities were provided and led by her in the afternoon and evenings in the hospital emergency department, allowing Starting Point to influence individuals that they were not able to previously.
Anna also developed a wellness curriculum and hosted weekly classes for the clients who have been diagnosed as severely and persistently mentally ill. Because clients with this diagnosis typically die 25 years earlier than an average person, teaching them healthy living skills can improve their quality of life and possibly extend it.
CEO Laureen Pagel experienced firsthand the benefits of adding a National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member to her team. Laureen strongly encourages agencies interested in a member to apply. “What you get in return is well worth the investment of time. We were able to increase our capacity to serve our clients, with a qualified and dedicated individual, at little to no cost,” she said. “As a non-profit with limited resources this opportunity is invaluable.”
To learn more about becoming a host site and applying for your organization to have a National Health Corps Florida member, go to http://nationalhealthcorps.org/florida/become-host-site.