Grateful Patient - Gerri Brasher

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March 2013

Gerri Brasher celebrates a year of sobriety, while her story illustrates the power of community organizations coming together to help an individual, and in the process strengthening our community. Brasher found herself fighting addiction and depression, a deadly combination for some, when her hospitalization brought her to the attention of Mendocino Community Health Clinic (MCHC) and their CUSOC partners.

CUSOC (pronounced koo-sock) stands for Chronic User System of Care. It’s a local collaboration of health organizations and service agencies whose pioneering efforts are providing better care at a lower cost to some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

CUSOC has two main goals: 1. Improving their health care by moving from a crisis-based approach to a preventive and management approach, and 2. Reducing the overall community costs of health care and social services. Working with Ukiah Valley Medical Center, the Mendocino County Jail, Ford Street Project, Mendocino County AIDS/ Viral Hepatitis Network (MCAVHN) and others, MCHC is working to identify and address the needs of people who spend a disproportionate share of time in county jail or the hospital emergency room.

Brasher was just such a person. After a series of difficult personal experiences, Brasher’s depression culminated in a suicide attempt. She landed in the emergency room and thus began her journey back to a healthy, productive person. During her hospital visit, she was connected with CUSOC. She began to receive her medical and psychiatric care from MCHC and things began to turn around.

“Before CUSOC, I felt like someone who had been slapped in the face over and over by life,” Brasher said. “When I got connected with CUSOC, things started to change.”

Brasher began to volunteer at MCAVHN, where they helped her organize and manage her hospital bills and other bills. Before her connection to MCAVHN and MCHC, she’d felt isolated, but the people in these organizations welcomed and cared for her. As she became healthier, she also reconnected with some of her family.

“At MCHC, they knew me by name,” she said. “They got me all taken care of. I got all the tests I needed: a mammogram, a colonoscopy, and everything. I got the psychological support I needed, too.”  

One of the reasons CUSOC is successful is because of the way it identifies patients: trained personnel at the jail and hospital identify high service utilizers who have (or are eligible for) CMSP health coverage. The people are interviewed by case managers from Ford Street or MCAVHN to determine the level of interest they have in changing their situation. If they show a genuine commitment to working with health and social services providers to move from a crisis-based approach to a more stable management approach for their care, they may be considered for the program. Participants sign a waiver so members of the collaborative can work together to serve the participants. 

 “I went from living in my truck and homeless for 15 months to working part-time managing a trailer park,” Brasher said. “And, I’ve been sober since March 2012.” As she celebrates a year of sobriety, Brasher is now a featured speaker during MCAVHN fundraisers. She continues to receive her medical and psychiatric care from MCHC and plans to stay the course.

For more information about CUSOC, the “About Us” section of our website.

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