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Housing Stability and Adequate Health Care Are Crucial for Mental and Physical Health

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Serena Sloane, a Pittsburgh-based certified nursing assistant, took advantage of a chance meeting at her laundromat with someone from Fabric Health to learn more about her options for bettering her health care benefits

Skeptical at first, but knowing she needed better health care, Serena Sloane, a Pittsburgh-based certified nursing assistant (CNA), took advantage of a chance meeting at her laundromat with someone from Fabric Health to learn more about her options for bettering her health care benefits. In this interview, she tells of her experience with Fabric Health and the UPMC Health Plan, as well as why those in a similar situation should not be afraid to ask for help.

“Having a very safe, comfortable, healthy foundation, as far as where you live, has a lot to do with your mental health [and] your health in general,” says Sloane, UPMC Health Plan member and Fabric Health client. “Stress is the No. 1 killer, and if you're dealing with stress day to day, just because you're not able to eat or lay your head down somewhere safe or clean, then unfortunately, you're going to deal with it with your health.”

This interview is part of a series with Fabric Health and the UPMC Health Plan. Please visit our dedicated UPMC Health Plan page for other insightful interviews with Fabric Health, the UPMC Vision Institute, UPMC Health Plan, and the Pittsburgh Financial Empowerment Center.

Transcript

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Serena; some people call me Rena. I've been a CNA for 8 years now. So that's what I've been doing: giving back to people who need the care. I've been in Pittsburgh for 8 years, as long as I've been a CNA—I'm not originally from here—and it's been tough being a single mom out here, with some support. So really, I just find myself being more like a survivor out here, always trying to make sure that I stay above water and things of that nature. But I'm outgoing, I'm fun, a lot of personality, I like talking to people. That’s pretty much about me.

How were you first introduced to Fabric Health?

I love telling the story. When I was approached, I actually told the person who was approaching me that they should be in movies, because I thought he was a very handsome man. So that allowed us to really open up the conversation and be comfortable with one another. I think I have an easygoing personality, so I think it's easier to speak to me and I find it easier to speak to other people when I open up.

Once that person told me about the benefits as far as health care and stuff like that, I was immediately interested, because the health care plan that I had, they weren't giving me all the things that I needed. So I'm like,” Yeah, let's change my health care plan.” But I'm like, “Are you the person to help me with this or is this a scam? Are you going to take my Social Security number?” But he assured me everything was fine, [and] gave me some information to kind of prove that he was legit, and he helped me with that. I changed over to UPMC [Health Plan], and I'm really excited about it.

Tell us about your experiences with Fabric Health.

Honestly, I didn't even know that I needed any assistance—I met someone who pretty much offered it to me—but I was aware that I wasn't getting all the things that I needed. For example, my son being 2 years old, I actually did go to dental school, so I'm aware that once kids get their teeth, their maxillary and mandibular, they should go to the dentist. My insurance wouldn't cover that. And I felt a certain way about that, and I was like, “Well, he should get his teeth cleaned.” It wasn't until I went to the laundromat that I was like, “Yeah, maybe I should actually change my insurance.”

So that was a lot of help, because I probably would have procrastinated on it. I probably would have to just continued to brush his teeth or try to find a different doctor that might give me this or give me that. But honestly, I would just have been waiting and waiting and waiting. So it was very beneficial to have somebody come and kind of give me that push, and they didn't even know what I needed it. So it's been beneficial.

What obstacle do you believe has the biggest impact on individual health?

If you're not comfortable, if you're not stable, then you're uncomfortable. I just think that having a very safe, comfortable, healthy foundation, as far as where you live, has a lot to do with your mental health [and] your health in general. Stress is the No. 1 killer, you know. So if you're dealing with stress day to day, just because you're not able to eat or lay your head down somewhere safe or clean, then unfortunately, you're going to deal with it with your health. Even when it comes to food and not being able to have access to all the healthy things, that hinders your health.

I think it all starts there: making sure that people have a solid foundation, where they wake up and go to sleep, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the hospitals may not see too many people. And that's just my take on that.

What advice would you offer someone who might find themself in a similar situation?

I would say definitely don't be scared to ask for help, and if help is given to you, take advantage of the resources. And when I say “take advantage,” there's no taking advantage of because they're willing to give. I have been this independent girl for so long, but I'm like, “No!” People are here handing me stuff, I don't need to be too prideful, I don't need to feel like they're looking down on me because you know, no.

So to anybody in my position, I will say, “Listen, ask for it. Don't be scared. The worst-case scenario is a “no.” Who cares? Because there could be 5 nos and 100 yeses. Just keep your head up, stay positive, and know that there's people out there who understand what you're going through, whether they're going through it or not, and who will help you out.

How would you like to improve US health care?

Well, we don't live in Canada, but free health care would be great. Free health care just flat out. It’s so sad that people with a toothache that’s so bad that it travels to their brain or travels to their heart… I just think that we should have people who go to school, [even though] they're not doctors or nurses yet, how come we don't have these people coming out and saying, “Well, hey, we need the credits, let's help people who are in need who can’t afford it.”

If everything can't be free, let's give back. I think that people should get out there more. Set up stations, come get your health check, see if you have diabetes. Whatever the case might be, make it free. There's so much that we have to pay for. We have to pay for water, and if you don't pay for good water, then you're probably going to get unhealthy drinking the bad water. Accommodate us, and free is the best way to be honest.

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