Stories from the Field: Leah Kaschmitter

Hi, please tell us a little about yourself. 

I’m Leah Kaschmitter, and I am a community health worker for the Cottonwood area and also the lead community health worker for St. Mary’s Health (SMH) and Clearwater Valley Health (CVH).

How is SMHCVH’s approach to diabetes care unique from what patients may experience in other healthcare facilities?

SMH and CVH are really trying to address the whole person. They’re, you know, trying to address those health risk assessments and referring to other agencies. We started doing health risk assessments in the clinic and then community health workers follow-up with the patients. We’re finding that if the basic needs aren’t met with the people, they can’t focus or concentrate on their diabetes or their chronic conditions. A lot of times just reaching them where they’re at is helping.

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

We moved all of our one on ones to phone visits and then also, if we could in the summertime, we would meet them outside with masks and shields.

The other thing that we continued to do was the blood pressure monitor loaner program, and that’s through public health also. We would take those blood pressure cuffs and go and hang them on the door in a little sack with the instructions and everything on it and try to navigate all the instructions over the phone and they had our number to call.

It was interesting because here the senior meal sites were closed-up to the seniors coming to the site, so they were inundated with take home meals. So, they offered the meals to everybody. We actually volunteered there and helped deliver meals and get those to the seniors so they could still have a hot meal. We also helped out at food banks too.We did a lot of volunteering there.

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

The HRA-the health risk assessment of those basic needs, social isolation, and try getting people connected to their communities. Maybe getting them connected to volunteer at different organizations and things like that. I know we’re working on that. The HRAs are going strong. We’re doing really good with that. With social isolation, we’re working on getting a list of organizations and places that people might not think need volunteers or need help and something that they may be interested in just to get them out.

A lot of people are moving here, so, they might not even know what’s in the communities and it can be very isolating if you don’t know people. Those are the two things that I think we’ll continue with moving forward.

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