Empath Health partners team up to increase access to care

Empath Health Community Partnership Specialist Keosha Simmons and Willa Carson Center Executive Director Kimberly Nunn-Crawford together at a program called Healthy Living for Your Brain and Body at the Willa Carson Health and Wellness Center.

By Karen Davis-Pritchett, M.Ed., Empath Health Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

CLEARWATER — Maria Pepe is a living embodiment of the community partnerships vital to Empath Health and its goal of providing access to care for underserved populations.

The community partnership specialist works for Empath Health while volunteering as a caregiver support group facilitator and community educator for the Alzheimer’s Association Gulf Coast Chapter.

As an educator, Pepe recently presented a program called Healthy Living for Your Brain and Body at Willa Carson Health and Wellness Center, a non-profit center in Clearwater dedicated to improving the health of the uninsured and underinsured in low-income communities.

“It is important to connect families to resources. At Empath Health, we took this connectivity to the next level by partnering with mission-aligned organizations,” Pepe said.

The Alzheimer’s Association and Willa Carson Center are valuable partners that help Empath Health spread the word about the Full Life Care available to all people with chronic, advanced and terminal illnesses.

Empath Health Community Partnership Specialist Keosha Simmons presented to a group at Willa Carson Health and Wellness Center the Clearwater.

“Yes, we have knowledge we want to share with the community, but we don’t want to work in silos,” said Keosha Simmons, an Empath Health Community Partnership Specialist who works primarily with African American groups and facilitates an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver group at Enoch Davis Center in St. Petersburg. “We want to make sure we are including everyone to be a part of the conversation and have a seat at the table.”

The Willa Carson Center invited Empath Health to present at Lunch and Learn programs to inform retirees about the hospice, home health, adult day care, personal care, palliative care and grief services available. Empath also had an information booth at the center’s largest fundraiser, the 10th Annual Walk for Willa 5K Run/Fun Walk on April 15 at Crest Lake Park in Clearwater.

The partnership between Willa Carson Center and Empath extends the center’s goal of providing care to the community’s most vulnerable members.

“I’d like to consider myself connected,” said Willa Carson Center Executive Director Kimberly Nunn-Crawford, “but you just don’t know everything that’s out there. It’s very beneficial to us as a clinic and the individuals we serve. We value the partnership.”

Empath community partnership specialists volunteer as support group facilitators for the Alzheimer’s Association. The support groups connect people living with dementia with others to foster understanding and encourage participants to move beyond the diagnosis. The Alzheimer’s Association also provides training for Empath teams, equipping clinicians with interventions and interactions for patients with dementia and their caregivers.

Empath hosts the Alzheimer’s Association’s Brain Bus, a recreational vehicle that travels the state, raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and related dementias. The Brain Bus, and its companion, the Brain Van, offer information about early detection, early diagnosis, brain health, and risk reduction.

“Meeting people where they are, providing access, is really important to me in my job,” Alzheimer’s Association Program Manager Makeba Huntington-Symons said. “I think together, the three of us can do wonderful things for our community.”

Learn more about Empath Health at EmpathHealth.org. Find out more about the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association at Alz.org/FlGulfCoast and the Willa Carson Health and Wellness Center at WillaCarson.org.

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