Patient Story: Helping to Lift a Black Cloud

By Jonathan Zarov — 

Rachel Sanchez, BS, is the health educator at Gundersen Lutheran, where she has been helping patients since November 2009. Gundersen Lutheran began delivering services as part of WIPHL’s original Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant. She tells this story…

I met with a female patient when she came in for her annual physical. She had mentioned to me at that time she was drinking more, due to depression from being unemployed and financially frustrated.

When I met with her in the clinic, she was beginning to become concerned with her alcohol use. As we talked, she started to realize she was drinking more to cope with her struggles. She spoke of how it had started out slowly, drinking wine; now it was becoming part of her daily routine. We discussed a change plan – brief, small steps she could begin taking. She had many goals and we worked through the ones she listed as priority. I provided her with follow-up weekly.

When I met with her again in the Gundersen Lutheran hospital (about 7 months later), she was in for a same day procedure, and she seemed a completely different person. Despite being in the hospital, she had a smile on her face. She had her husband and daughter with her, which was something she was struggling with when I had met her prior — lack of support and understanding. They were right by her side. She was really happy to see me! She even introduced me to her family, remembering my name. She filled me in on what had changed. She described her changes in alcohol use (decreased, would be considered low-risk). The “black cloud” had lifted. I could see this too.

Not only was she provided with SBIRT services in our clinic, but in the hospital! What a vital service!

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