Patient Story: An engaged, persistent health educator makes the difference

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 with severe depression came into our clinic but declined to fill out the brief screen questionnaire before her appointment. After meeting with her, the provider asked me to meet with her, because she was struggling with her mood. I gently approached the patient, who was in tears. We talked a little bit, and she agreed to answer the screening and brief assessment questions. We completed them together and discussed her results.

The patient’s score on the brief assessment (PHQ-9) indicated severe depression severity, and I encouraged the patient to see a mental health counselor, but the patient said she had been to one before and didn’t feel like it helped. She was tearful and said that she didn’t usually share her feelings and felt bad for crying. I just tried to support her and meet her where she was at. We discussed other things she could do on her own – behavioral activation activities – and we also discussed talking with her provider about a change in her medication.

At the end of our time together, I reiterated that we have a great mental health counselor on staff right here at the clinic, and if the patient was ever interested, I could set it up for her to have an appointment. The patient did end up seeing the counselor, and shortly after, the counselor came back to me to let me know that the patient was doing extremely well.

The provider switched the patient to another medication that worked better for her; she has engaged in counseling; and is now feeling much better. She told her counselor that she never would have felt well enough and comfortable enough to go to counseling if she hadn’t met with me (the health educator) for a brief intervention first.

Even though this patient initially declined to fill out the brief screen, an engaged and persistent team made sure she got access to BSI services – which in turn helped connect this patient with the services that best met her needs.

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