Project focuses on bridging gap between social needs and health care

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WDTV)- Our state has been chosen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as part of a project to try to bridge the gap between social needs and health care. Here's the idea: When you're worried about things like where your next meal is coming from, your health may not be top priority. It's that mindset for doctors and patients that this project wants to change.

Daryn Ginevan knows about this all too well. He used to be homeless.

"Your top priority is, 'Where am I gonna sleep? What's my next meal?'" he said. "When you do live on the streets, as I said before, everything else is second nature. It's survival of the fittest."

Ginevan's lifestyle couldn't line up with doctors' orders, like the time he was told to get some rest and not go in to work.

"I can't do that," he said, exasperated. "You know, I can't. I've got to get an income so I can try to save up to get a place."

The executive director at the Family Resource Network in Clarksburg has worked with people who don't have access to healthy food or aren't able to properly exercise because of where they live.

"If the basic needs are not met they're always in crisis and cannot get past to the next level that basically is understanding what that doctor is trying to tell them," said Elizabeth Shahan.

She's eager for a better connection between health care and understanding social challenges. A local nurse practitioner says she brainstorms with patients in these scenarios, like ones who don't have access to transportation. She's hopeful collaboration in the "uphill battle," will lead to beating disease.

"Maybe there's a decrease overall in development of things like diabetes," hopes Anna-Marie Houtrouw, a nurse practitioner at United Hospital Center. "But also once they develop those chronic conditions is control of them so you can have diabetes and be under very good control and have very good health outcomes."

The project is officially called the Accountable Health Communities Model and nine health care organizations with 48 clinical sites will be screening Medicaid and Medicare patients for social needs related to their health.