Catholic Social Services is adding medical care to its social services. In June, the catchall human services agency opened a medical exam room in its Pittsfield Township offices.
Katherine Hoffman, a nurse practitioner from Packard Health, sees patients Monday-Wednesday, plus one Saturday a month (hours vary). While most patients are CSS counseling clients referred by the agency’s staff, during at least this first year of operation the mini-clinic will be open to walk-ins, says CSS administrator Steve Sheldon, adding, “There’s no waiting list.”
Most patients are middle-aged or older, and many are dealing with chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension. Hoffman can do physical exams, tests like Pap smears, and write most prescriptions; in complex cases she consults with a Packard Health physician.
Sheldon says he and Packard Clinic director Ray Rion came up with the joint venture in part because of research showing that many people getting “behavioral health services … don’t get primary care in a stable fashion.” A patient may be “depressed and diabetic,” he explains, and the depression may cause her to neglect the diabetes.
Sheldon says that people are more likely to seek medical attention when it’s provided in a setting they’re already familiar with, and for decades people have come to CSS for counseling and for help navigating life on modest incomes. He and Rion worked behind the scenes for over a year to make the partnership happen. Startup funding came from a $60,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.
The partnership is also a preemptive strike in an era of uncertain health funding. Sheldon and Rion hope the coming together of the two agencies will cut costs and will serve “as a better model of care,” says Rion, who adds, “It’s hard to know what’s going to come out of Washington.”