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Community Care Continues to Impact the Community

When you think of clinics and the services they provide, images of furnaces and showers are unlikely to come to mind.

But one aspect of Coal Country Community Health Clinic’s “Community Care” that might not be widely known is their ability to help patients who meet certain criteria with referrals for services they may need.

One Hazen resident was the beneficiary of such services recently.

“I was sitting in the doctor’s office during a checkup, and my doctor asked if I needed help with anything,” Geno Gress said. “I just turned 80, and I told her I was having trouble with my shower.”

Gress' doctor informed him he might qualify for CCCHC’s program and connected him with Kylee Schmiesing, a community health worker with the clinic. Gress enrolled in November 2022.

“Our Community Care program is a Medicare program to help keep our patients in their homes safely,” Anna Anderson, a social worker with CCCHC and Community Care coordinator, said. “And we can provide referrals to help with that.”

Anderson said these referrals can be on anything from companies or organizations that provide cleaning services to access to medication equipment to assisting with applications for different programs.

Certain criteria must be met in order to qualify for the service (including being enrolled in Medicare and having at least two chronic and/or one mental health condition). Gress said he has a dead eye following a stroke, which was one of the conditions that made eligible for the service.

In addition to referrals, Community Care helps their patients by routinely checking in with them, whether through monthly phone calls or by in-person visits if needed.

Once Gress connected with Schmiesing, he told her about his difficulties with his shower, and Schmiesing began looking into helping him get a walk-in shower. Due to a grant through the North Dakota Housing Agency, Schmiesing found that Gress could participate in a cost-share in which he would only have to pay a small portion of the total cost to get the new shower, with the rest covered through the grant.

Geno Gress stands outside the brand new walk-in shower that was installed for him in March. He was able to connect with a contractor for the work and a grant to cover the costs of the installation through the Community Care program with Coal County Community Health Center, which helps keep CCCHC patients safely in their own homes if they qualify. Pictured here are Community Health Worker Kylee Schmiesing (to Gress' right), who worked with Gress on getting both the new shower and a new furnace in his house, and Community Care Coordinator Anna Anderson (to Gress' left).

Schmiesing was able to connect with Community Action in Bismarck to do the shower work, and over the course of four days in March, the shower was installed.

“I just looked around to see who could do walk-in showers, and came across Community Action,” Schmiesing said. “They could do it under certain conditions, like the person must own the house and meet a particular income threshold.”

“I just wanted to say they did a very good job on the shower, I mean, an excellent job,” Gress said. “It’s very handy. It’s nice cause there’s a safety bar in there. They provided the handbar.”

While measurements were being taken for the shower, Gress was asked about his furnace, which he said was installed when the house was first built and was very old.

“I said there was a problem, probably with the heat exchange, and there was leaking,” Gress said. As a result, Schmiesing began also looking into a furnace replacement to be covered under the same grant.

As it turned out, there was enough money still left in the North Dakota Housing Authority grant to cover the full costs of both the shower and furnace replacements for Gress. The grant actually expired near the end of March, at the same time as this work was being done, and any money left over would be lost to the program. Those remaining funds enabled the grant to cover 100 percent of the project, with no cost for Gress.

“As it was, there was enough money in the grant to do the work and it didn’t cost me a dime,” Gress said.

Schmiesing was able to connect with Legend Air to do the work on the new furnace at the same time as the shower was installed. The furnace was able to be installed where the old one had been. Gress said the new one is similar to the old furnace, but more up-to-date and efficient.

Gress expressed gratitude to Schmiesing for her assistance in connecting him with these services which have made it easier and safer for him to continue living in his own home in Hazen.

Anderson said Community Care serves in all communities and areas that are serviced by CCCHC, from Center and Stanton in the east to Twin Buttes and out to Killdeer in the west. Anyone interested in learning more about the program and the eligibility requirements can contact Community Care directly at the Sakakawea Hospice building where they are based, or by calling (701) 748-7380.

(Story and photo courtesy of Daniel Arens, Hazen Star)