Social workers offer specialized training and experience assisting individuals and their families or caregivers in addressing unmet needs, along with life challenges. They provide emotional support, coordinate care, and can help connect you with medical and non-medical resources in Monterey County. Katie is a social worker who works with Aspire Health Plan patients, and we recently sat down with her to ask her some questions about her role.
“Social workers focus on issues related to the social determinants of health,” she says. These are elements of their social and economic conditions in which they live that have profound impacts on their health and their risk for disease. Some of those issues social workers focus on include access to nutritious food, transportation, or safe housing, or whether they’re dealing with a behavioral health diagnosis or substance abuse. “Social workers understand that a person will continue to struggle to address their medical issues until we’re able to improve some of these other aspects of their life and work on those life stressors,” says Katie.
1. As part of an enhanced care team, what types of services can social workers provide for Aspire Health Plan members?
Social workers aim to improve patients’ lives by helping them manage their stresses. we do this by connecting them to vital community resources, providing emotional support, and serving as their advocates. We help patients address barriers they may face when trying to access resources and care they need, and we also support patients who are ready to make a difficult life change and help them through that process.
2. Talk about how you partner with health coaches and nurse care managers to support members and their families in navigating an often confusing and overwhelming healthcare system, managing chronic illnesses and getting the care they need.
We get referrals from all different sources. Often, referrals come from a provider who sees a need or concern such as a psychosocial issue a patient is struggling with. Other times, it may come from a patient calling into Aspire Health Plan and asking for help with these types of issues, so the health plan may send us a referral and ask us to reach out to that member to see if we can help. Other referrals come from colleagues such as health coaches and nurse care managers who may be working with a patient.
I work closely with other members of the enhanced care team. We all have different strengths and expertise we bring to the table, and when we work together, we really can better serve our patients. For example, a patient may have a combination of complicated medical problems as well as social issues, so the care manager and I will work in tandem on those cases, each tackling the areas we know best. This allows the patient to get the support they need with all aspects of their care. As a team we rely on one another for consultation and advice. It’s incredibly helpful to have people to bounce ideas off of, and really helps spark creative solutions to the various challenges that our patients are facing.
3. What would you say to Aspire Health Plan members and other members of the community who are unaware of their access to an enhanced care team to encourage them to learn more?
I think Aspire Health Plan is one of those rare insurance plans that offers this type of service to its members, and it really shows Aspire understands that a person’s health is much more than just making sure they get to the doctor or take their medication. It’s really about looking at the whole person and all aspects of their life and attending to any needs in all of those areas, whether it’s physical, mental or emotional health and wellbeing.
A lot of patients that I reach out to are surprised to receive a call from a social worker, and they never imagined that would be something they’d have access to. They’re so appreciative to have support. So, I would encourage Aspire Health Plan members who want to learn more about the services that social workers and other members of the Enhanced Care Team have to offer give Aspire Health a call at (831) 644-7490.
4. What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I feel very fortunate to have found a career where I get to help people and support them through life’s challenges. I care deeply about my patients, and I value the connections I make with them. I think it’s so rewarding when you can finally break down a barrier that someone had been having to help them access care or services they need, or when you see that spark in a patient who is finally ready to make a change in their life. That’s what really sets Aspire apart is that at the end of the day, they offer these enhanced services to members.
Hear more from Uga, an Aspire Health Plan member and full-time caretaker of her husband with Alzheimer’s who received help from Katie for her overwhelming situation.
As an Aspire member, you have no-cost access to an enhanced care team including social workers. Call (831) 644-7490 to request more information.