When accidents build rapport, and a member continues to grow

NFHC AmeriCorps member, Han, meets with a client
As a Patient Navigator, Han, meets with clients to review health education materials and ensure they are prepared for primary and specialty care appointments he is able to schedule for them

It was 8 minutes past 10 o’clock on a Wednesday morning when I hurried onto the second floor of River Region Human Services (RRHS), a non-profit mental health and substance abuse treatment center in Jacksonville, Florida. I was running late to Men’s Group – a weekly counseling session where male clients in recovery come together to find their inner-selves through meditation followed by a discussion of various topics ranging from their feelings, emotions, to any challenges that they may be facing.

As I walked into the room, however, I found a group of men staring blankly at me with the lead counselor nowhere in sight. “The counselor is sick. Can we still do the group today?” one guy asked.

Although I have always been a regular participant of the group as the AmeriCorps Patient Navigator at RRHS, I had yet to facilitate one. But it was an offer I could not refuse.

“Sure,” I said, agreeing immediately without a pause, not because I was prepared, but because I enjoy listening to their stories, because I wanted to get to know the group better, because I knew they were looking forward to our meeting just as much as I was.

"I was surprised how much I was able to relate to them..."

So I began with a brief meditation as we usually do and proceeded to check in with everyone, asking how they were doing and if they had anything to share. Through our conversations, I was surprised at how much I was able to relate to them– the guilt and shame of making bad decisions in life, the frustration with failures, and the hope to become a better man, a better individual. In addition, many reported to be struggling with issues with health care, medications, and chronic medical conditions. In response, I encouraged the men to focus on the present and to face the future with a positive attitude. I ended the group discussion by reminding them of my role as an AmeriCorps member to resolve problems and how I can help to provide access to health care.

"...the hope to become
a better man, a better individual."

Over the next few weeks, I have been able to work with many of the men to successfully connect them to primary care, prescription medication assistance programs, and other outside services. I am very glad that the accidental event on that Wednesday morning played out the way it did. It allowed me to establish a unique rapport with the group and reach out to be part of solution to the many challenges that our clients at River Region face day in and day out.