Stories from the Field: Erin Massey

Hi, please tell us a little about yourself. 

My name is Erin Massey. I’m a licensed clinical social worker and a behavioral health consultant at Orofino, Idaho in a primary care clinic where we’re doing integrated behavioral health.

How is St. Mary’s Health and Clearwater Valley Health’s (SMHCVH) approach to diabetes care unique from what patients may experience in other healthcare?

My approach is unique because I’m part of the primary care team. When a primary care provider identifies that a patient could benefit from meeting with me to work on behavioral health concerns, that’s when I come in. With traditional therapy, think of going to a long-term therapy clinic, in an outpatient setting, seeing someone for like hour-long visits. With me, it’s a little different. Sometimes I meet people in the exam room when the provider has been in there with them, and the provider feels that they could benefit from meeting with me. There’s been times when somebody has had a diagnosis of diabetes, like maybe a new diagnosis and they need assistance in identifying ways that they can try to control their blood sugar better.

There’s also the aspect of if they’ve got anxiety or depression – somehow that plays a role in having their diabetes or their A1C not where they want it. It took me some getting used to doing this because I came from the outpatient long term therapy clinic. Trying to squeeze it down into a shorter visit took some time to learn, but I do think that it’sbeneficial because sometimes people just don’t have the time for longer visits. Working in the same setting as their primary care physician really makes it easier for them to access those services.

How has COVID-19 changed your work in diabetes care?

It’s increased significantly. I’ve seen my patient numbers go up because not only are they dealing with personal health issues, but they’re also dealing with what’s going on worldwide or what’s going on locally regarding COVID. I started doing telehealth during COVID. I’d never done telehealth before and now it’s a regular thing for me. I talk to people on the phone all the time or telemedicine through a zoom platform. I think since COVID regarding access to resources, we’ve realized that we need to get creative in rural areas. By having those types of things that made it more accessible, I’ve been able to see more people.

To continue supporting medical and social needs for patients living with diabetes, what are some of your advocacy priorities in the SMHCVH region?

With it being a rural area, I think we’re really trying to break the stigma of mental health and help people understand that mental or behavioral health can affect physical health as well. We are trying to help people make that connection in our community because, like other places, it’s taboo to talk about If you have depression or thought about suicide. It’s just like if you have a broken leg, you go to the doctor to get it figured out. It’s just like this with mental health. You’ve got to go get help. I think we’re really trying to change how it looks in our community with mental health and make it more of a common understanding along with taking care of your medical needs.

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