Grocery Store List: Milk, Bread, Eggs — Checkup

Story by Susan McDonald

Virtual visit — EVP Karen Goyette, right, and East Region President Donna Handley listen as the OnMed representative shares how the diagnostic tools drop from the ceiling during a patient visit to the OnMed Care Station in Killingly. Photo by Chris Rakoczy.

It’s Sunday evening and your cough won’t quit. Do you suffer through the night or head to Stop & Shop for comfort?

This isn’t comfort in a can of chicken noodle soup; it’s the kind only a medical professional can provide.

In January, Hartford HealthCare expanded its commitment to access to quality care with the opening of an OnMed Care Station in the Killingly Stop & Shop Supermarket. The location is key — the state’s rural northeast corner poses unique challenges for people seeking healthcare and the retail location’s extended hours make care available when it’s often needed most.

“Partnering with OnMed to Change the Way Patients Think About Seeing the Doctor.”

OnMed Care Station is a unique experience. There’s no staff physically onsite but users ages 2 and up connect virtually to licensed clinical professionals for private, one-on-one, virtual visits in real-time. Visits can address 85% of concerns discussed in typical primary care visits and capture key vital signs.

Patients needing additional care are given referrals. Any necessary prescriptions can be filled at the in-store pharmacy or through e-prescription at the patient’s preferred pharmacy.

Visits are conducted in English, although support for additional languages will be available soon.

In March, Hartford HealthCare opened a second OnMed Care Station at The Village for Families & Children, a Hartford human services agency. Other locations are planned in 2024.


Temporary Respite Turns Into New Life

Story by Elissa Bass

New Start — Deborah Lawrence enjoys the independence of having her own apartment.

Deborah Lawrence had never heard of the respite program at Rushford until a change in her living situation left her needing it.

After losing her home and entering outpatient treatment at Rushford for depression, Lawrence worried about how she would stay on track when her daughter and son-in-law, with whom she lived, went out of town for an extended period of time. They were also worried about her being left alone.

Insurance referred the family to Rushford’s respite program, which is designed to offer accessible, temporary relief to people experiencing overwhelming or difficult stressors that significantly affect their mental health.

Darcy Lauretti, respite program operations manager for Rushford, part of the Behavioral Health Network, explains typical stays in the 10-bed program, funded by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, is seven to 14 days.

“People come to us from the emergency room, inpatient care, an outpatient provider or community agencies,” she says. “They come to respite because they are struggling psychiatrically and need help. We provide a safe, supportive environment where they are linked to Rushford community support, clinical and case management programs.”

For Lawrence, her time in respite opened doors for a whole new way of life.

“We were able to admit her into our program and help her stabilize,” Lauretti says. “As we got to know her, it became clear that she had a vision for her life. She wanted to return to independent living.”

While in the respite program, Lawrence attended clinical day programming, participated in respite activities, socialized with others and worked on life and coping skills. The Rushford treatment team also worked with her and her family to find her a place in Rushford’s Community-Based Initiative (CBI) in Meriden, an apartment building where patients live independently but have Rushford staff embedded around the clock. With the support of Lareina Lacz, program operations manager, and CBI staff, she moved into a new apartment with her cat Ashlee. She still receives outpatient care from Rushford and is thriving.

“I am forever grateful,” Lawrence says. “Their caring and compassion, just being there to listen, made my days and nights bearable. Their comfort took away all the bad emotions so that I could achieve my goal of getting a place to call home. I couldn’t have done it without any of them.”


Tanzania Medical Mission ‘Renews Faith’ for Backus Midwife

Story by Elissa Bass

Kathy Gauthier gets many rewards from her medical mission trips.

Medical missions are almost spiritual experiences for Kathy Gauthier, a certified nurse midwife who delivers babies at Backus Hospital.

She has participated in the trips annually since 1996, primarily to Haiti and finds the work in remote clinics reaffirming for her career.

Last October, she and Renee Witkovic, a Backus labor and delivery nurse, journeyed to Tanzania with the organization International Medical Relief. They spent 10 days in Arusha, working in a clinic outside the town, next to a church.

It was the first time Gauthier traveled with IMR and the first time she went somewhere other than Haiti. COVID disrupted her annual Haiti visits and the political and social upheaval there now made travel risky.

But the 64-year-old found Africa just as rewarding.

Through word of mouth, area residents knew healthcare providers were available. The team of 10 — pediatricians, a dentist, a dermatologist, nurse practitioners and a physician — saw 1,100 patients in 10 days.

“It always renews my faith in why I became a nurse.” — Kathy Gauthier

“It’s pretty fast moving,” Gauthier says. “It’s very different from medicine in the States. It’s a lot of primary care that we do, a lot of women, some men. A couple of pregnant women, we had a portable ultrasound and I showed them their babies and they heard the heartbeats. It was the coolest thing.”

They pay for the trip out of their own pockets and use vacation time, but Gauthier says it’s “worth every penny.”

“It always renews my faith in why I became a nurse. Here, with the hustle and bustle, you can get burned out. On the mission, I remember why I wanted to do this in the first place. I remember that I am here to take care of people,” she says.


IOL Expert Helps Harness Hoarders

Story by Tim LeBouthillier

David Tolin, PhD, director of the IOL’s Anxiety Disorders Center, is a long-time consultant on the television show “Hoarders” which airs on the A&E channel and is currently filming its 16th season. He was invited to be an expert on the show since its inception in 2009, and has appeared in the majority of its run.

He continues into the new season.

Hoarding disorder, Dr. Tolin explains, is a condition caused by a combination of environmental, psychological and genetic factors that is more likely to affect older adults and those who have other psychiatric diagnoses such as anxiety and depression.

The pace and one-on-one format of the show, he explains, is enjoyable as he helps guests come to terms with their condition. The more personal setting of “Hoarders,” which brings cameras into the homes where the subjects live and amass items, also allows him to tune out the camera people and focus on the patient.

The biggest challenge, he says, is being given a complex case with limited time to assist and make a difference in the person’s life.

“For our guests, understanding that they have a hoarding problem is a start, but just cleaning up their house does not always solve the problem,” Dr. Tolin adds.

The good news is that guests are offered follow up aftercare in the area of the country where they live so they can continue to address their condition and improve their living situation.

“The show pays for that so they can get continued care from local professionals and find a long-term solution,” he says. “Not all take advantage of it, but most do and I am gratified that the show is committed to providing professional resources for those in need.”

Dr. Tolin is also an author and frequent guest on many American and international podcasts, radio and television shows, and interviews with media outlets all over the world. In addition to his years on “Hoarders,” he has been featured on the reality TV series “The OCD Project” and “My Shopping Addiction” and has been a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “The Dr. Oz Show.”

At the Anxiety Disorders Center, Dr. Tolin and his colleagues conduct research into the different ways to help those struggling with this all-too common problem.

Lightening the Load — Dr. David Tolin offers psychological insight into the disease of hoarding as part of the A&E show “Hoarders.”

These Losers Are Winners

Story by Ken Harrison

Thirteen nurses from the Same Day Surgery Department at Backus Hospital participated in a weight loss challenge they titled “The Biggest Loser.” Photo by Ken Harrison.

For 13 weeks, nurses from the Same Day Surgery team at Backus Hospital shared healthy recipes and workout routines to help each other reach their weight loss goals.

At the end of the challenge, they saw a total weight loss of 161.1 pounds! The nurses then decided to hold a food drive to collect food totaling the amount of weight they lost. The food was donated to the Backus Food Pantry.