By Maryann Kuzila, LPCC-S, Neighborhood Family Practice behavioral health therapist
People with mental health issues often feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or believe they should handle their struggles alone. Many times, they don’t even know there is help available.
At Neighborhood Family Practice (NFP), a United Way funded organization, our medical providers, behavioral health providers and other care team members work together to identify when a patient is struggling early on and provide the support that is best suited for him or her.
The toll of stressors, how to support
We know that the toll of stressors on a person’s physical and mental health can be enormous. At NFP, we believe strong relationships between providers and patients are key to creating a trusting space for patients to discuss their struggles. Regular screenings related to, for example, substance use and depression allow the medical provider to link the patient to appropriate mental health services.
Patients may struggle with depression, loss of employment, caring for an ill family member, relationship issues and much more. We realize that supporting the patient early on prevents the problem from worsening. Letting the patient know they do not need to carry the burden alone is perhaps even more important in successful treatment.
Personal forms of assistance
One of the ways NFP assists patients is by offering a personalized session with a member of our behavioral health team. After undergoing a thorough assessment with the behavioral health team, the patient and therapist develop a course of treatment that will benefit the patient most. Other times, the patient’s needs require that we pair them with other organizations and resources in the community. With the assistance of our linkage coordinator, we help them navigate that process.
Our patients report feeling very supported by our team approach to their care. At NFP, it’s our belief that everyone deserves access to care regardless of ability to pay, and to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect.
Maryann Kuzila, LPCC-S
Neighborhood Family Practice behavioral health therapist
Maryann Kuzila, LPCC-S, began working at Neighborhood Family Practice in 2013 as a behavioral health therapist. She previously worked at Recovery Resources as a mental health assessor, clinical therapist, group facilitator and alcohol and drug therapist. Maryann has over 15 years in the field and holds a bachelor of arts in Psychology from Cleveland State and a master of arts in Counseling and Human Services from John Carroll University.
One of the topics I will discuss specific to World Health Day is the term “population health.” It was introduced in 2003 and defined as “the health outcome of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.”
United Way of Greater Cleveland works on addressing the health of the local population in multiple ways, by assisting people with direct health issues, employment, education and basic needs. While I help determine how funds are distributed to agencies in a funding area, or Hub, we call “Health,” all of our funding aids in improving our population health outcomes.
How do we impact health?
In our Health funding area, I work with a team of community volunteers to reduce the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (commonly referred to as ACEs). We fund programs that work to reduce violence, and ones that provide evidence-based care to people who have already experienced psychological trauma.
Evidence shows that people who experience fewer ACEs and less chronic stress, or who have support for recovery from ACEs, will on average have better physical and psychological health down the road. We also support patients who need support managing chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure. While these are fairly obvious ways of helping improve our population health, other areas of assistance might be more surprising.
What other areas of health are there?
For example, United Way funds several programs that assist people with finding employment and career paths. Having reliable and meaningful work can be tremendously important for people’s health. We also help people access their Basic Needs, including food, housing, transportation and medication.
Without access to these basic life necessities, good health will be out of reach for many people. And through funding early childhood programs, and through our Wraparound Initiative in the Cleveland Municipal School District, we strive to make sure children attain higher levels of education, which is associated with long-term better health outcomes.
Finally, United Way of Greater Cleveland is the lead agency on a pilot initiative with several local partners to aid people with their health-related social needs. As we near the launch of this exciting endeavor, we will have more information to share.
If you would like to learn more about our work in the health arena, please visit our Web page at www.unitedwaycleveland.org/our-work-2/health/.