Parish nurse takes on role of health advocate

Antioch – Gloria Stevens is one of 25 parish nurses in northern Illinois. Stevens works for the newly formed non-profit called Antioch Area Healthcare Accessibility Alliance. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media

(News-Sun) Antioch area residents are starting to reap the benefits of a $52,500 grant to provide better access to healthcare, specifically through network nurse Gloria Stevens.

Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County (HFNLC) awarded the grant in May to the newly-formed coalition of non-profits called Antioch Area Healthcare Accessibility Alliance (AAHAA).

Stevens, a registered nurse and certified case manager, said her job offers a broader scope beyond her original role as parish nurse since April for St. Ignatius Episcopal, St. Stephen Lutheran and Antioch United Methodist Churches

She is one of 25 parish nurses in northern Illinois employed through Advocate Health Services, and is the only parish nurse in northwest Lake County. Her territory is Antioch village and township.

She is working 20 hours weekly, with costs shared between Advocate Health, the churches and now through $19,500 in grant money. The balance of the grant will be used to fund a needs assessment and for transportation services from Antioch to free medical clinics in Mundelein and Waukegan.

“I prefer the term network nurse because my services are not just reserved for church parishes. My primary function is to meet with and talk to anyone who is trying to navigate the healthcare system,” said Stevens.

“She is a resource, organizer and advocate for local residents who need help navigating the healthcare system,” said St. Stephen Lutheran Church Pastor Ellen Arthur, a member of the alliance.

Stevens doesn’t do hands-on nursing care. “I visit clients to assess their needs and refer them to appropriate healthcare providers. But just as often, I may refer them to other organizations that offer services to the home-bound.”

She gave the example of a client referred to her by Open Arms Mission Food Pantry. “Her health is stable, but she is isolated. She needs help with her finances and understanding her medical bills and how she might pay for them.”

Stevens referred her to a volunteer financial counselor and connected her to the public library’s home delivery service so she can receive reading materials and videos.She visits with about 10 clients weekly, dealing mostly with people with chronic or debilitating medical conditions who are isolated. “I may arrange for volunteer nurses to check on them regularly to take their vitals and make sure they are eating. And I make referrals to other organizations that offer services to home-bound.”

While AAHAA was organized to target low-income residents, Stevens will help anyone of any age or income.

“I can direct them to low-cost or no-cost healthcare. I can link them up with people who volunteer their services and who can be a good resource for healthcare-related issues. But even people with good medical care and insurance sometimes need someone to help them coordinate their care and their costs.”

As the year progresses, she will meet and coordinate referrals and services with other Antioch area organizations like Antioch Rescue Squad, the police department, Antioch Senior Center and schools.

“I also want to develop no cost health and wellness programs to anyone in the community. Education is so important to avoid serious health issues. The ideal is to minimize or avoid health problems in the first place,” said Stevens.

Stevens has an office at United Methodist Church, 848 Main St. Contact her by calling (847) 395-1259.