Health advocacy coordinator gives needed, added services
Randy Metcalf/The Explorer, Andrea Rogers, a health advocacy coordinator, manages a large group of volunteers at Interfaith Community Services. Under her management, about 600 people a month receive care from ICS volunteers.

Andrea Rogers has a rather unusual way to describe her work at Interfaith Community Services.

“Unlike many businesses who want you to ‘work within box’ (of a job description)” says the health advocacy coordinator, “our ‘box’ has rubber walls.

“The goal is to help our recipients with additional services if needed. We’re not here to take over their life, but to make it better.”

The list of active recipients found needing more help reached a record-high 608 in August, explains the veteran registered nurse. Usually, that number of persons is in the 550-600 range in any given month.

Some examples of additional services: transportation, caring visits, calling a doctor if diet change is needed, help for loss of eyesight situations, follow-up calls after hospital stays, door ready to fall off home, checking with person’s clergyperson, seeking less costly prescriptions, finding agencies to provide durable medical goods.

“Every day is new and different,” said Rogers, who relies on in-home evaluations from volunteer workers who deliver mobile meals, make “telecare” calls and caring visits, fulfill transportation needs and make handyman repairs. Volunteers provide an average of 10 new in-home evaluations each month, she adds.

In calendar 2009, nearly 50,000 individual services were provided through various ICS programs to its client/recipients, who are elderly, disabled, frail, homebound and may have other needs.

The part-time health advisory coordinator position became a reality in 2003 with a bequest from a parish nurse at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church – where the organization began 25 years ago.

“That person thought a staff position was needed because of our work with at-risk clients,” points out ICS Executive Director Bonnie Kampa. “The bequest provided seed money and St. Andrew’s continues to provides funds for that position.”

In 2006, ICS received an Achievement Award from the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona for its use of volunteers in the community advocacy program. Founded in 1980, the Community Foundation is a leading voice for innovative solutions working with charitable organizations and individuals.

Rogers spent 27 years of her career at St Mary’s Hospital, from the emergency room to director of medical/surgical care to the intensive care unit. Then she was office manager for seven years at a Tucson medical practice.

Retirement at age 61 in mid-2006 left her somewhat restless. Less than a year later, she heard a radio spot where an ICS recipient talked about getting mobile meals and a joke each weekday. Her response: “I can do that!”

Rogers became a volunteer for two months, then moved into a staff position in September 2008 as assistant to then-coordinator Maricela Reynaert. When Reynaert left to become a stay-at-home mom, she applied for and was hired as health advocacy coordinator.

“It’s a great job being able to help people in so many ways,” Rogers said. “The smile on the face after spending time with them or a hug as you leave makes it all worthwhile.”

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