- May 14, 2021
- Posted by: Jessica Gee
- Category: Staff Stories
Matt Erickson is a care manager at North Country HealthCare’s Williams location, and he has helped care for North Country HealthCare patients for seven years. Before he was a care manager, Matt brought care to residents of northern Arizona by way of our mobile medical unit. As the mobile unit driver and patient relations representative, Matt worked closely with healthcare providers to bring much-needed care to those in Flagstaff who were experiencing homelessness.
Now, as a care manager, Matt helps patients navigate the sometimes murky waters of healthcare. He serves as the connection between patients and their providers – helping to coordinate care with specialists, schedule follow-up appointments and connect patients to the resources they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
As a care manager, Matt has the opportunity to help his patients pay for necessities that are not covered by their health insurance. He wouldn’t be able to do this without the Angel Fund at North Country HealthCare. The Angel Fund is a “special fund” set aside for North Country providers to help their uninsured or under-insured patients pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. These expenses can range from diagnostic tests to a pair of new shoes for a patient who needs them.
A helping hand
Recently, Matt was able to utilize the Angel Fund to help a patient fill up her gas tank so she could drive from Williams to Flagstaff for important medical appointments.
“This woman walked into our front lobby and told us she needed help,” Matt explained. “We realized she needed medical care, behavioral health care, and help with some basic necessities. Unfortunately, she was a victim of domestic violence who was fleeing an abusive situation. She was passing through Williams when she ran out of gas and money, and she walked into our clinic.”
Matt and his team were able to help the woman schedule a visit with a medical provider, apply for free health insurance through AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid program), and connect her to a program that helps victims of domestic violence. After filling up her gas tank, she was able to travel to Flagstaff, where she had better access to other safety net programs, such as food pantries and shelters.
When asked what motivates him to care for the community in which he lives, Matt’s answer was simple: the people.
“It’s my patients. To see them make healthy changes that really impact their outcomes, that’s what keeps me coming to work every day.”
Barriers to healthcare
Matt also shared that some of the biggest needs he has noticed within the Williams community include transportation and connectivity. Many Williams residents live “off the grid” and on dirt roads. When it rains or snows, most of these people have a difficult time leaving their home to make it to medical appointments. For those living in motor homes, or similar vehicles, it can be expensive to travel long distances to a doctor appointment. And, those living on the outskirts of town typically have poor a cell phone connection and no wireless internet, making virtual visits or telephonic medical appointments nearly impossible.
Another major barrier Matt has noticed is poor health literacy, which is defined as the degree to which someone is able to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions. Matt explained that many patients need extra help understanding how to follow the specific instructions of their provider or pharmacist.
“Williams is a close-knit community,” Matt said. “It’s a place where everyone knows everyone. Neighbors help neighbors, and they focus on what they have in common, not on their differences.”
Luckily for our patients in Williams, Matt is a neighbor who will do just that. To support Matt’s efforts and other providers at North Country HealthCare, you can make a gift to the Angel Fund by visiting our donation page.