Local pastor starts program to develop healthy habits

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Rev. Scott Trotter is starting a pilot project to help people who are new to insurance develop healthy habits for accessing health care. Scott how did you get started on this project.

"A couple of years ago, after the Affordable Care Act passed and before it began signing people up, I was in a conversation with my Spiritual Director," Trotter said. "I mentioned that all are about to have health insurance for the first time. I've done some work in Family Systems Theory and am aware of Dr. Ruby Payne's work with generation poverty; both lead one to understand how past generations' struggles with going to the doctor will affect how people new to insurance will feel about going to the doctor or hospital. A divine gift connected that with my knowledge of AA small groups who help addicts manage their addiction by building new relationships, in part through small group discussions. I put it all together and the idea of inviting people new to insurance to join a small group conversation about how it feels to go to the doctor in order to rewrite their past experiences and build a better relationship with doctors and hospitals so they can have healthy access to healthcare."

Trotter mentioned the effect that previous generations have on how people might struggle with going to the doctor; how does that work?

"I once heard the story of a mother teaching her daughter how to cook a ham,' he explained. "She went through all the necessary steps and right at the end said: "And now you use this knife to cut off the small end." Her daughter asked, "Why?" Mom replied was silent for a long bit and said: "I don't know, it's how my mother taught me." As the daughter's insistence, they called grandma. After idle chatter, the granddaughter asked why you cut the small end of the ham off before putting it in the oven? Grandma giggled and said, "So it will fit in the pan." Our lesson is that we don't always make decisions or do things the way we think we do. Many times learned behaviors are passed down from generation to generation, and the original reason gets lost."

How does that affect how we go to the doctor?

"Parents or grandparents may have been embarrassed about going to the doctor or hospital because they knew they didn't have the money," Trotter said. "Sometimes under-resourced people are treated indifferently, and that feeling gets passed on. Or because your family didn't have the money to go at the first sign of illness, so going gets put off until the disease processes are too far advanced, and the family member dies, and you learn you go to the hospital to die. Any experience good or bad can contribute to a behavior that is passed down from one generation to the next. The behavior is remembered, but the cause is lost."

And talking with others can fix it?

"Well, maybe not fix, but group discussion will certainly help people discover significant influences in their lives and their family's history, and the discussion can help them rewrite their behaviors and their relationships," Trotter said.

Along with AA, Trotter said there is there another source for this kind of healing.

"There is the writing to heal movement, that encourages any kind of expressive exercise of putting one's feeling on paper, is having good results helping people heal in many areas," he said. "There have been studies that provide some data that verifies storytelling and writing your story contributes to healing."

How many people might join a small group?

"It is hard to say," Trotter said. "There are 1,560 people in Mississippi County who have insurance through the Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act; we know it as the Private Option, that will become Arkansas Work in January. Many of them are happy with their experience, but not everyone. In early 2016 some 73,000 Arkansans have insurance from the marketplace, I do not have the county level information. People with Health Insurance Marketplace insurance are welcome to participate. The key piece is if you have insurance for the first time through any part of the Affordable Care Act."

Trotter's pilot project plans to have two groups of 12 each.

The Thursday Night group will begin meeting October 27, at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church (1512 Willow St) and the Tuesday Night group will begin meeting November 1 at the Great River Charitable Clinic (33 Arkansas St). Both groups start at 6:30 pm. All the meeting will end December 22.

" The first and last meeting will be a little different," Trotter said. "The six regular meetings will begin with the group facilitator will welcome everybody. The group will identify themselves by their first name and say how they feel about going to the doctor in three or four words. If there is a skills development exercise, that will come first. Following two people will share with the group how they feel about going to the doctor. The group will ask questions to be sure they understand what has been shared."

Does the group make suggestions or offer solutions?

"The principle at work is for each individual to come to understand their part in feeling uncomfortable going to the doctor, so suggestions are not really helpful. Good questions that bring clarity to a remark are," Trotter said. "Observations about the speaker's body language or facial expression can be helpful in identifying true feelings."

How does a speaker know when their turn is over? "A couple of ways," Trotter said. "First, they have said what they have to share and secondly, one role of the facilitator is to manage a speaker's time. And oh yes, when a speaker is done, the groups thanks them for sharing."

He noted the first meeting the groups will be getting organized, learning where bathrooms and so on are in the host's building. Trotter said there will also be some data collected. An information sheet will get their first name, information about their insurance history; there will be a short survey about their perception of their health, and the opportunity to describe how they feel about going to the doctor.

"The first decision is if the group want to continue meeting," Trotter said. "If they do, those arrangements will be made. There will be a second set of data collected very similar to the first night. Finally, there will be a chance to say goodbye appropriately."

The Healthy Access phone number is 870 623 6427, and its email is healthyaccess16@gmail.com