Making an Impact by Caring for the Most Vulnerable
The CARES Claude Pepper Senior Health Clinic is a nonprofit clinic in New Port Richey, FL, that provides primary health care to older adults (aged 54-64) who are vulnerable, uninsured, and underserved. The clinic serves more than 900 clients who live in the community. Many of the clinic’s clients have not received health care in years; they have undiagnosed and untreated medical conditions that significantly affect their safety and abilities in activities of daily living. The clinic’s volunteer doctors and nurses must focus on determining medical diagnoses and prescriptive medical treatments, so they typically have little available time to address the specific functional challenges that limit a client’s health, abilities, and/or safety, resulting in an unintended gap in the provision of health care.
Dr. Vanessa M. Dazio, an OTR who joined the clinic four years ago, developed and expanded the clinic’s first occupational therapy program as a way for the clinic to fill the gap in primary care. She works with clients who are unsafe or at risk of injury or who have complex or newly developing health conditions, functional losses, or physical and emotional challenges.
Dr. Dazio’s overall knowledge and competence in the field of occupational therapy is continually tested and thoroughly demonstrated. Her OT interventions treat the needs of the whole patient and encompass a range of services, including acute and chronic disease management, fall prevention, risk reduction, home safety, physical and behavioral health management, pain/stress reduction, community mobility, and lifestyle redesign. She has worked on community integration and helped clients access community resources, such as food, clothing, disability benefits, social security benefits, and adult protective services.
Dr. Dazio’s efforts often reach above and beyond the duties of daily practice. She is a client advocate, providing caregiver training, grief counseling, and end-of-life counseling and working with outside agencies to connect clients with vital services and resources in the community. She has also helped the clinic write and find grants to support the provision of free assistive devices to clients.