Patient Story: “Patient Advocate” Makes A Positive Impact

A health educator who delivers SBIRT services in a Wisconsin healthcare clinic tells the story of how a brief intervention resulted in her patient getting much-needed mental health and financial help. (Some details have been changed to protect patient confidentiality.)

A patient came in for a medical appointment, and after a brief screen, depression was identified as a potential topic that could be discussed through the SBIRT services provided at our clinic. I met with the patient, who was a bit apprehensive at first. During our initial brief meeting, further assessment was completed. We discussed anti-depressant medications, behavioral techniques that are helpful for addressing issues with depression, as well as the benefits of further mental health counseling.

The following week, I made contact with the patient via phone, and he expressed his struggle with making appointments and financial issues. I referred the patient to a social worker, who would be able to connect him with resources, and mental health counselor, who could provide more intensive counseling for his challenges with depression.

At a subsequent medical appointment, the patient made it a point to find me and thank me for my assistance. He reported that when he first met me, he was hesitant because he was worried SBIRT services were being offered due to others mistakenly thinking he had an alcohol or drug problem. The patient continually grew more comfortable with me and was able to open up freely about his concerns. More importantly, this led him to be more comfortable with making follow up appointments that I had recommended for him, which included meeting with a social worker who connected him with financial resources. This significantly helped him finally get some very serious medical issues addressed. The patient ended the conversation with me by asking what my title was. He stated that he felt “patient advocate” should be added to the title because more services than just education were provided. Lastly, he said he appreciated the positive impact it made in his life.

Even though the patient’s initial contact with me seemed fairly standard at the time, it later came to light that the SBIRT services provided to him had a positive impact in his life and greatly increased his ability to seek out further medical and mental health care.

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