Care Council members Janice Starling, Deputy William Lawson and Lolita Dash-Pitts. Not pictured is member Priscilla McFadden of the Juvenile Welfare Board.
BY LASHANTE KEYS, Empath Health Community Partnership Specialist
ST. PETERSBURG — It takes a community to care for one another. Empath Health is honored to partner and work hand-in-hand with the community to make a positive impact on people’s care, health and wellbeing.
Our Care Council in St. Petersburg is dedicated to helping educate African-American residents and families about care and support services of Empath Health. This group of community leaders identifies needs within the local community, shares information about the Empath Health network and assists us with community outreach.
We are so grateful for their valuable insight and support. We plan to expand this model into north and mid-Pinellas County to reach even more people.
Community love, education and support
Three Care Council members recently met to talk about their roles and commitment to the community. All three are St. Pete natives.
“This is our town. We are invested here. Both of my parents are elderly, and my husband just retired. I did a living will with my family after Empath Health came and presented on living wills in my home. I am looking at having another group session,” said Lolita Dash-Pitts, a Care Council member and Front Porch community health educator.
Dash-Pitts want people to engage in conversations about life insurance, living wills and other types of planning–the kinds of discussions that people don’t like to talk about.
Janice Starling Williams is also on the Care Council and works as an administrator at Starling School and Daycare Center and is the founder and executive director of All Kidney Patient Support Group. Since she had been involved with health fairs through Empath Health, she was asked to be part of the council.
Starling Williams helps educate the community on kidney disease, diabetes and other health issues. She also teaches people about available care and support services to help those affected by chronic diseases and those preparing for the final stages of life.
“My church talks about living wills. We work with seniors, homeless people and others dealing with health issues,” said Starling Williams.
One issue she deals with is the lack of fresh produce and nutritious food in certain areas of the city.
“If you can’t go into a grocery store and get fresh vegetables or if you can’t afford them, then you may decide to eat fast food, canned goods or processed food, and that’s how you get diabetes, high blood pressure, blocked arteries or other conditions. Joining the Care Council was the right thing to do to further educate and help people in our community,” Starling Williams said.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy William Lawson is another Care Council member.
“I focus on issues of the community. I want to make a positive difference,” said Lawson.
His purpose for joining the Care Council was to bring a law enforcement perspective and learn how he could help. Lawson sees the need for affordable housing, employment, restoration of rights and health education, and wants to meet people’s needs by giving them information and resources.
“At crime watch or neighborhood association meetings, we talk about how to protect identity, living wills and preparation, grief counseling and other Empath Health services. Empath Health is about inclusion, and our Care Council is just what the name says, we are a council that cares,” he stated.
Compassionate hospice care and more
Personally impacted by Suncoast Hospice care and services, Starling Williams enjoys being an advocate.
“I’ve used services and referred people to services. I saw how Suncoast Hospice treated my dad in my home and how my sisters handled my dad’s passing,” she said, noting that Suncoast Hospice is about compassion, comfort and ease of the transition. “Empath Health also offers caregiver services, support groups, dementia education, palliative care, HIV/AIDS services and more.”
Deputy Lawson hopes to change mindsets around hospice care and other support.
“When we talk about hospice, some people think, ‘You are going to kill me off.’ We need them to understand that it’s preparation for the path for comfort and a smooth transition home.”
If you are interested in joining the Care Council, please call us at (727) 523-3427. To learn more about Empath Health, visit EmpathHealth.org.