Grace Medical Home

by: FOR Orlando

More than 185,000 people in Orange County are uninsured and have no access to ongoing care due to insurance status and cost barriers. Grace Medical Home reflects the heart of Christ by offering the highest level of health care to the low-income, uninsured in Orange County. They’ve revolutionized their approach to care by taking the patient’s entire well-being into consideration. Their goal is to make sure all patients are not only medically healthy but spiritually and emotionally healthy as well. Read the stories below to learn more about Grace Medical Home

Nirvana
Behavioral Health Social Work Program Director, Grace Medical Home

I’ve lived in Orlando since the 90s. I’m a licensed clinical Social Worker so I used to do private practice. I was the director of a bilingual university program, the Masters in Social Work program, and Grace Medical Home was the first site for our students at the time. I was traveling a lot at that position, so when the opportunity came for this job, I was like, “Let me apply!” I’ve been here three years now.

I oversee both the mental health and the Social Services department at Grace Medical, with mental health and with counseling. We basically do counseling for our patients that are referred or that want it.

The way I explain it is it’s integrated care where we offer medical services, primary care, and specialists like mental health and spiritual care. We don’t see the person as just a medical need, mental health, or spiritual – we see the whole person. And we try to address each area.

We see patients from ages zero to 64. We have a lot more adults than we have kids, but our kids that we do have, they’re very sick. A lot of them have very complicated things; they come from countries where they never saw a doctor or dentist and they were never diagnosed with their medical issues. So, they spend a lot of time here with us.

Clients contribute to the services a little bit based on their income – we see it as a contribution. It’s about dignity. And then we in our social services department try to connect them with resources, either in the community or here internally. Like we have a food pantry, so if they need food then we’ll connect them to that resource. The main need is food always, and a lot of our patients also struggle with transportation. So, we try to find resources close to where they live.

I think my favorite part is the integrated care. I think it is amazing that we even are able to do that. To see the whole person and to try to address all areas, how we were created, that’s just amazing to me. It’s all connected.

We have a lot of patients that are struggling with trauma, so they’re complaining about stomach issues, about headaches, and they do all the testing, and nothing works. But they’re struggling with all these mental health issues. So we go and assess the situation and schedule them right there for counseling.

It’s just amazing to see the other side when they start getting better. When they don’t complain anymore of stomach issues, don’t complain about the headaches anymore. That’s my favorite part.

Last September, we started screening for ACEs, which are Adverse Childhood Experiences. It’s the trauma a kid goes through and how the research has shown how it can affect you as an adult. Like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and Alzheimer’s; there’s a little direct link between how much trauma and toxic stress you go through as a child and then the consequences as an adult.

We also put interventions in place for the children to help them deal with this stress and help give them coping mechanisms so that they can have an outlet for that stress. Ballet classes, art, trauma-focused parenting classes, nutrition. It’s really neat to see the difference in the kids.

I think when people come and see Grace Medical Home and spend a little bit of time here, they get it. It’s just a special place where volunteers get to do very cool things for people that don’t get these services anywhere else. We have a volunteer that works in registration and then also does tutoring. There are things for everyone to do.

Our patients are special. They’re wonderful and they appreciate what we do for them and with them.


Becca
Philanthropy Manager, Grace Medical Home

I grew up in College Park, went to Edgewater High School, and went to college at the University of Florida. I actually interned for Grace Medical in 2011 when I was in college. When my husband and I were moving back to Orlando, I was putting together my resume, and the woman that was in my role before me had just given her notice. It’s just a total God thing in terms of timing, that we were moving here and that I was looking for a fundraising role.

I think there can be a misconception about what we do at Grace. Like so often people ask, “How many beds do you have?” because we’re called Grace Medical Home. But really, we’re a primary care office for the uninsured. So just like when you and I go to the doctor, that’s what we want our patients to experience, but everything that they need they can get under one roof.

Whether it’s medical care, dental care, mental health, or access to food resources, we want this to be their hub and for them to feel safe here. That’s why we call it a “home”. Because once they’re here they have what they need, and we know them personally.

I’m the Philanthropy Manager here at Grace. I talk with different donors, raise funds, do a lot of grant writing, and work with our monthly donors. Separate from community health centers or federally qualified healthcare centers, we’re a free and charitable clinic model where we fundraise for everything. We are completely privately funded. Individuals, foundations, corporate groups, churches, you name it: they are supporting our budget and that helps us provide care for patients. It gives us a lot of flexibility on what we can do, so we can spend more time with patients and provide spiritual care.

Churches play a big part in that. We have hundreds of donors that have come from those churches that are still part of what we do today. I think there’s a lot to like about partnering with churches. The heart behind it is the best part. I think the way they mobilize is incredible, and just the way it’s so integrated into the organizational structure. We have some smaller churches that maybe have just 100 members, and then there are like the First Orlandos that have been partners with us for all 12 years and have multiple connections. There are so many people that might not be able to volunteer, they might not be able to give, but they can give their expertise. It’s so valuable to us. And it’s just cool that there’s this connection because of our shared faith. Even if someone can’t support financially or with their time, just knowing that they’re praying for you is helpful. People that want to be a part of what we’re doing here.

We have a lot happening in the next year to 18 months, especially with mental health and wellness. We’re actually in the process of purchasing a house across the street to expand our wellness programs and that’s just exciting to me. I love the fact that we’ve seen a growing need and then we can respond to that.

Another huge need for our patients is access to transportation. Yes, we’re in the center of Orange County, but that’s not always super accessible. It’s multiple bus lines, a really expensive Uber ride, or having to wait on a family member to get your appointment. So we are also dreaming about purchasing a mobile unit as we try to figure out a way that we can get to our patients and be more accessible.


To send a note of encouragement to Becca, Nirvana, or the Grace Medical Home team, email ForOrlando@FirstOrlando.com.

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