Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series of stories featuring the 21 agencies that will receive funding from the Finney County United Way in 2013.
BY ANGIE HAFLICH
The Southwest Kansas Diabetes Prevention and Control Program at United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries provides education, support and medical assistance to members of the community who either already have diabetes, or are at risk of developing the disease.
Program Coordinator Veronica Medrano and Lay Educator Ada Flores teach people in southwest Kansas about the prevention, treatment and control of diabetes.
"They (Medrano and Flores) are able to look at it from a lay perspective," UMMAM Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Waggoner said, adding that family physicians often don't have time to discuss, in detail, ways that diabetic patients can take control of the disease.
"That's where both of them come in and are able to really, really focus on (helping the patients) make lifestyle changes and talk to them about making choices about what's going on with them," she said about the diabetes program, which is partly funded through money the agency receives from the Finney County United Way.
The program is not in competition with family physicians, but rather is an additional resource that helps in the management of diabetes. Medrano said that in many cases, she helps her clients determine the type of questions to ask their regular physicians. Either that, or she explains what medical terminology means in a more straightforward way.
Waggoner said that many diabetic patients who come into UMMAM are overwhelmed by all of the lifestyle changes they are told they will need to make, in terms of diet, exercise, medication and testing of blood sugar levels. Because of this, Waggoner refers them to Medrano and Flores, who help these individuals sort it all out.
"I think one of the things we do as lay educators is try to help them eliminate some of that stress because of the misconception, 'If you have diabetes, your life is diabetes.' We try to help them realize they're still going to have a life," Medrano said. "We get to just help them take a deep breath and be like, 'OK that wasn't too scary.'"
She said that without the program, many individuals' conditions could deteriorate to the point that they would have to seek emergency medical attention, resulting in higher medical bills. UMMAM provides all of its services based on a sliding scale, in terms of one's income. This allows for individuals to obtain basic medical services, education and screening that is in line with what they can afford, with the aim of preventing more serious health issues,
The program is not in competition with family physicians, but is an additional resource that helps in the management of diabetes.
This year, UMMAM requested $33,000 from the Finney County United Way for the diabetes program, the same figure it received in 2012. That represents 38 percent of the diabetic program's funding, with other funding sources being state and federal grants.
"During this grant cycle of seven months, the program has served 262 individuals, with 162 being new patients," Waggoner said.
While Medrano has been involved with the program for several years, it was the addition of this funding in 2012 that allowed UMMAM to add the additional lay educator to their staff.
"The United Way funding allowed us to add on Ada Flores as an additional lay educator, focusing on Finney County because United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries isn't just in Garden City. We have clinics in Dodge, Liberal and Ulysses, as well. The lay educator for the program is responsible for southwest Kansas, and having a person dedicated in Finney County allows for Veronica to do outreach at other clinics, without shortchanging the Garden City clinic," Waggoner said, adding that Garden City is the busiest clinic.
In addition to education and prevention, the diabetes program provides a low-cost insulin program, free eye exams and free foot exams for people with diabetes, as well as dietary guidance from dietician Mary Anne Shriwise.
The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $550,000 for 2013, the same as it has been for the last few years.
Additionally, the 21 partner agencies for the 2013 campaign are also the same as this year.
They include: Miles of Smiles; Russell Child Development Center; Finney County RSVP; Kansas Children's Service League; Catholic Social Service; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Program; Smart Start; Playground Program; Family Crisis Services; Spirit of the Plains, CASA; The Salvation Army; Meals on Wheels; Habitat for Humanity; Garden City Family YMCA; Garden City Chapter of the Red Cross; Santa Fe Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Community Day Care Center; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties; and Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland.