For the last five years, Lori Ashbridge has worked as Rockbridge Area Health Center’s support services specialist, connecting patients with area resources to help with varying needs, including food, clothing, housing, utilities, transportation, and form completion.
With the launch of the RAHC’s mobile units this spring, she’s now able to take her show on the road. She’s also earned certification as a Community Health Worker, enhancing her ability to reach more people and provide more access to health and social services.
On a typical day in the field with the mobile health units, Ashbridge stations herself outside the unit, laying out brochures on resources available to community members. She meets with clients who have made appointments or with anyone who walks up to ask a question about resources or RAHC’s health
Sometimes a single question opens up a window to meet multiple needs.
“A patient called the health center the other day looking for a dental appointment,” Ashbridge says. “They were in pain, they had no health insurance and no transportation, and they live in Goshen. I said to them, ‘If you don’t mind meeting me under a tent outside the old Goshen public library, I’ll be there tomorrow.’”
When Ashbridge met the caller, it quickly became apparent their problems went far beyond a toothache and a lack of insurance. “Their life was in turmoil,” Ashbridge says, with ailing family members, and mounting bills.
On the spot, Ashbridge signed them up for Medicaid, helped them fill out a financial assistance form for RAHC’s sliding scale payment plan, and applied for hardship assistance to pay down existing healthcare balances. She alerted them to the mobile food pantry coming to Goshen in the next few days. She gave them samples of Ensure nutritional shakes for their elderly father, and with coupons for more. And, of course, she made sure they got a dental appointment for the following Tuesday.
Not a bad day’s work.
“Some of the time, the people we see are not in a good place. All of our providers take our mission seriously: to make every visit respectful, dignified, and easy, and to be truly patient-centered,” she says. “At the end of the day, I know I can’t solve all their problems. But I can give it the old college try.”