LifeLong Medical Care’s Wellness Center
Contributed by Elaine Herscher, Senior Communications Editor, LifeLong Medical Care
At LifeLong Medical Care’s East Oakland Health Center, complimentary medicine is alive and well, and in-person classes are springing back to life after two long years of pandemic isolation.
The Wellness Center here was established ahead of its time a decade ago with the idea that underserved people should have access to complimentary medicine and other modalities that are commonly out of reach for people in East Oakland.
Having all these services in-house … is amazing – Josalynn Neal
Each month the calendar is jam-packed with classes: yoga and tai chi, meal planning and prep, a homeopathy group, and a group for people with asthma. There are also classes for people with diabetes and hypertension. Patients can also get acupuncture treatments, with a plan to resume cranial sacral therapy and energy sessions once a practitioner is in place. AmeriCorps fellows are delivering food every week to patients in need, with a plan to reinstitute a community veggie food giveaway.
Says Wellness Program Manager Josalynn Neal, who was born and raised here, “You think about being in the middle of deep East Oakland, you wouldn’t have access to these modalities at all. You would have to drive off somewhere to get acupuncture or drive off somewhere to get energy work, if you knew what energy work was. And it would cost a pretty penny, whereas in-house in our Wellness Center it’s all covered by your insurance because our providers are doing the service.”
The Wellness Center has a twofold purpose: give patients information and attention that can’t be covered in the typical provider visit and to offer them the chance to try integrative practices.
“Having all these services in-house and having all these different modalities that we’ve been able to share with our community is amazing,” Josalynn says. “And seeing our community’s reaction to it – people really, really take to it.”
The center, created in 2012 by now-retired physicians Barbara Towner, MD and Adisa Wilmer, MD with the help of AmeriCorps fellows and volunteers, grew from one chronic care assistant and a single medical assistant to five support staff, three podiatrists, an acupuncturist, and a chiropractor today.
After two pandemic years, many of the health center’s patients who have avoided care for their chronic conditions are returning. And to make sure everyone gets the care they need, Josalynn goes to the dashboard in Tableau that lists LifeLong’s performance in 10 Core Quality Measures, which include diabetes testing and control.
“Sometimes providers are so busy trying to get all the other things done that they don’t refer,” she says. “So what I’ve been doing is going into Tableau. I’ll see what provider is struggling with their diabetes measures, and I’ll run their diabetes patients, and we’ll outreach to them and get them involved in the group. And most people when we call are actually excited that we’re reaching out to them just for their diabetes.
“When you look at Tableau, you’ll see our core quality measures are increasing,” Josalynn says. “The doctors don’t even know that we’re helping them. You’re welcome,” she says laughing.
There’s a reason why my passion is so strong for this. – Josalynn Neal
Josalynn and her team have big plans. Right now, conditions are so cramped that they have to move furniture around every day to repurpose rooms. East Oakland and Howard Daniel health centers will combine into a new facility, projected to be completed by the end of 2023. There will be more space for classes and quiet areas – and a new kitchen for resuming cooking classes once it’s safe to eat and prepare food together.
“I can’t wait. There’s a reason why my passion is so strong for this. When I come here, I see people that have been my friends I went to high school with. I see people’s grandmothers that I know, people that go to my church, people that I’m intertwined with. So, I’m going give my best to my community and show them, hey, you deserve excellent care. You deserve to be heard.”
Learn more about LifeLong Medical Care HERE.