ICS Focuses on the Importance of Primary Care for People with Disabilities

In what made for a strong turnout, people with disabilities, disability advocates and local leaders attended an Independence Care System (ICS) webinar focused on primary care and the importance of primary care physicians (PCPs) for people with disabilities.
Importance of Primary Care for People with Disabilities

More than 25 participants attended the online event, “Somebody Call a Doctor: Primary Care for People with Physical Disabilities,” which was held in partnership with NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H), United Spinal Association of NYC and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.

The event centered on the significance of quality primary care, the role of PCPs, and the dangers and risks associated with poor care, including early onset of chronic conditions like diabetes and unnecessary hospitalizations. The panel also discussed the partnership between ICS and H+H to provide crucial solutions for people with disabilities.

An overview of primary care

The event was moderated by ICS Senior Vice President of Clinical Program and Population Health Rachael Stacom, who introduced the panel of guests, including United Spinal Association of NYC President and ICS Board of Directors Member José Hernandez, Dr. Janine Knudsen from H+H and ICS Director of Women’s Health Claire Abenante.

Primary care, Rachael said, focuses on promoting health and wellness, preventing disease, helping patients make decisions about their care, and diagnosing new and chronic illnesses.

After discussing the ICS Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that highlights steps and methods to improving access to primary care for people with disabilities, Rachael also discussed the disadvantages of not having PCPs, from poor health outcomes, to being unable to access important equipment and supplies, to unnecessary infections and hospitalizations.

Guest panelists share their experiences

Mr. Hernandez shared his lived experience as a person with a disability, highlighting the dangers of not having primary care. Mr. Hernandez, who is a wheelchair user with a spinal cord injury, shared that, for years, he went to his physiatrist for care. A physiatrist is a medical professional who focuses on whole body treatment for the musculoskeletal system and its pain-causing disorders. As a result, Mr. Hernandez was not getting the proper vaccinations, care and treatment needed to address his condition.

After being advised to see a PCP, Mr. Hernandez found one at Mount Sinai Health System and immediately saw the difference in care and treatment.

“Our care goes overlooked” he said of people with disabilities. “Equipment can be inaccessible. People with disabilities die needlessly. Proper care, doctors, and support to facilitate our health is very important.”

Maintaining health and wellness

Dr. Knudsen, a PCP at H+H / Bellevue Hospital, provides team-based primary care services in an innovative complex care clinic for people with housing insecurity and homelessness, as well as refugees and immigrants. She is also the medical director of the Special Operations Team at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Dr.Knudsen discussed the ways in which primary care is important for people with disabilities, who, due to having difficulty accessing care, often require multiple specialists and sometimes hospitalization.Dr. Knudsen explained that H+H is improving access to preventative services, including breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings, and improving accessibility services such as wheelchair fittings, physical therapy and physiatry.

“I’m a primary care doctor — it’s my role to know the big picture,” Dr. Knudsen said. “It’s important to promote health and wellness, prevent disease, and help people make decisions on care.”

ICS Primary Care Program

Claire discussed the ICS Women’s Health Access Program, founded by past ICS Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Women’s Health Marilyn Saviola, which was designed to address primary care barriers. As the Women’s Health Access Program progressed, it became clear that primary care for all was an obvious next step.

The ICS Primary Care Program was launched in 2019 with crucial funding from the New York City Council, and is a key partnership between ICS and H+H. The program includes a team of key physicians and administrators from H+H who provide people with disabilities access to PCPs who provide disability-centered care. Those who do not have a PCP or are unhappy with their current PCP can contact Claire at 646.647.6100 or claire.abenante@icsny.org to receive more information and a referral to a doctor in the program.

“You should get the right care in the right setting, in a manner consistent with your desires and values,” Claire said.

Click here to view the full event.

Christopher Engelhardt

Christopher Engelhardt

Communications Specialist

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