Many obstacles alongside accomplishments were born out of the COVID-19 pandemic in Urban Ministries’ Open Door Clinic. Expanding our integrated care approach, one that supports in-person appointments as well as telehealth, the Open Door Clinic not only reduced no-shows but also onboarded 433 new patients. Imperative to handling and preventing increased COVID-19 cases in clinic patients was our partnership with NeighborHealth and UNC Rex Hospital, which enabled the clinic to administer 1131 COVID-19 tests. By January of 2021 the clinic secured and administered approximately 1,500 COVID vaccines through partnerships with NeighborHealth, WakeMed, and Walgreens.
Through their bold step towards integrated care, the Open Door Clinic not only made physical healthcare more accessible for their patients but mental health care too. Our approach through the Behavior Health Program aims to acknowledge that physical and mental well-being are inextricably linked. Good mental health can positively affect your physical health, while poor mental health can negatively affect it.
The Open Door Clinic aims to help patients maintain a healthy mental state, to promote full-person health, and prevent serious health conditions. Emphasizing our focus on mental health, the Open Door Clinic created a case management team to offer behavioral health referrals to patients enduring a COVID-19 diagnosis and the complicated and often lonely feelings that accompany it. Before making a referral, the team assesses patients’ needs and makes sure they have access to any other services they might require.
The Open Door Clinic also added nutrition education classes piloted by the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Research shows that there is a link between what we eat and how we feel, evidenced by higher levels of anxiety in individuals whose diets consist of saturated fat and added sugars. However, small dietary changes can make a big difference.
EFNEPs combination of nutrition education, cooking classes, physical activity strategies, and information on how to shop with a limited budget, has been shown to help 92 percent of participants improve their dietary intake., 51 percent practice daily physical activity, 90 percent practice better food resource management, and 91 percent improve their food safety habits. The Open Door Clinic made sure to offer in-person as well as virtual cooking camps where participating families received pre-made kits with food and supplies. Clinic patients are also referred to our Food Pantry where they will receive more than 50 percent fresh produce.
Looking towards the future, the Open Door Clinic has a few key goals. We aim to continue a hybrid approach to care – in person and telehealth – which has reduced patient no-shows and other barriers to attending in-person clinic appointments. We plan to continue COVID-19 case management, which further ensures the physical and mental well-being of patients through caring not only for their physical symptoms but also the experience of isolation and loneliness they may face when receiving a frightening diagnosis. Finally, the Open Door Clinic will offer walk-in clinic appointments later this year, which would serve as an alternative to the ER and Urgent Care. We expect to identify chronic health conditions such as borderline hypertension or blood sugar and invite patients to enroll with the Open Door Clinic as part of their continued care management.
Written by Development Intern, Bella Petruccione