Meet Kathy Acosta: BVMI’s social worker!

BVMI has welcomed Social Worker Kathleen Acosta, MSW, LCSW, who joined the BVMI family in early October. Her hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays, for a total of 8 hours a week. She comes to BVMI with “feet on the ground” experience, having previously worked at another medical health center in a similar role.

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI) provides free healthcare to hard-working Bergen County, NJ residents who don't have insurance.

Kathy often has the opportunity to see patients during their primary care visit, which is very beneficial. Since all patients complete a PHQ-9 (depression screening) questionnaire before their first primary care visit, it’s possible to determine if they may have these types of issues. If the doctor/nurse practitioner finds that the patient’s score on the PHQ-9 is high enough to warrant intervention by the social worker, that’s where Kathy comes in. If by chance the patient’s medical visit does not coincide with one of the days Kathy is working, the doctor/nurse practitioner can still make a referral to her as needed.

Kathy believes it’s important to incorporate mental health support into a patient’s overall care. By merging the two, she says you can bring awareness to the patient that some of their symptoms, such as migraine headaches, may be influenced by factors that are not purely physical.

“Social workers can ask questions in a different way than the medical staff,” said Kathy. Since Kathy speaks Spanish and is able to make inquiries in a culturally-sensitive way, she might uncover slightly different answers than the doctor or nurse practitioner receives. She calls it the ability to “rule out or find out” when it comes to relating a patient’s physical symptoms to their mental health.

“Sometimes patients have no one else to talk to, no inner circle,” said Kathy, “and this gives them a great feeling of relief — to be able to open up about the things that are truly bothering them. “

“A big part of my job is being able to give patients resources and referrals,” she added. “I can explain symptoms they may be having — such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks – in a way that “normalizes” them. That makes it easier to explain to the patient what can be done to help, whether we’re talking about the benefits of medication, a referral for therapy, or other ways to cope.”

“It’s really a team effort at BVMI,” said Kathy. We communicate with each other a lot. And Michelle Kaye, our Nurse Manager, also knows what’s going on with almost all the patients; that is very helpful. Everyone is just genuinely caring and does a great job of documenting things, too.”

Welcome aboard, Kathy!

  • January 23, 2017