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Asante limits diabetes education program

La Clinica Community Health Worker Ana Maria Salaverry, right, talks with a patient about healthy eating at La Clinica Wellness Center in Medford. La Clinica continues to offer classes that help people manage their diabetes. [Photo courtesy of La Clinica]

Asante is cutting back on who is eligible for its diabetes education program, but other health care networks in the Rogue Valley still offer programs to help people get their diabetes under control.

Beginning Nov. 4, Asante diabetes education programs no longer will be available to everyone in the community. Instead, only patients referred by an Asante Health Network physician or people with Asante’s AHNPlus health insurance will be eligible for the services.

Of the 13 employees who work in Asante’s Diabetes Education and Nutrition Services programs in Medford and Grants Pass, some will continue to provide diabetes education while others will move to other departments, according to Asante.

“It’s important to understand that, like most health systems across the country, Asante is making difficult decisions to make sure we use resources in the right place,” said Lauren Van Sickle, manager of communications and public relations for Asante.

She said Asante continually tries to hire employees amid a nationwide shortage of workers in health care and other industries.

Asante bills insurance for Diabetes Education and Nutrition Services programs, but insurance reimbursements don’t cover costs. Asante has been subsidizing the service, Van Sickle said.

The program became a virtual service in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It has since transitioned to both an in-person and virtual program, serving about 100 patients each week. The goal moving forward is to provide education alongside primary care providers, according to Asante.

However, many patients find it hard to get adequate information about nutrition, cooking, exercise and other lifestyle decisions during the short doctors’ office visits of modern medicine.

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious complications, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, vision impairment and blindness, tooth loss, nerve damage and limb amputation.

Asante’s diabetes education programs help patients learn about those risks plus meal planning, blood sugar monitoring, insulin management, exercise and more. Staff members have included certified diabetes education, registered nurses, a medical social worker and a physical therapist.

Providence said it recently learned about the coming changes to Asante’s diabetes programs in Medford and Grants Pass.

“This is a concerning development as the need for diabetes and nutrition education continue to grow, both nationally and in Southern Oregon,” Providence said in a statement in response to Mail Tribune inquiries.

Providence said it accepts most forms of insurance, and patients don’t need to be already established with a Providence provider to seek care through the health network’s Nutrition and Diabetes Education Services.

There are some limitations on who can use Providence diabetes education services because of existing agreements with coordinated care organizations that manage Oregon Health Plan benefits. For example, AllCare, a coordinated care organization that manages Oregon Health Plan benefits, is contracted solely with Asante for services in Josephine County. Providence also has no clinics in Josephine County, Providence said.

“Providence is committed to serving as many patients as we are able. As this is still a relatively new development, we are in the process of assessing our ability to provide additional staffing to care for people previously served by Asante’s program. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work to address this need during a time that is presenting staffing challenges in health care nationwide,” Providence said.

Patients and providers with questions about Providence diabetes education programs can call 541-732-6955 or see providence.org/locations/or/medford-medical-center/diabetes-and-health-education-center.

Diabetes education is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance companies. Financial assistance is available for people without insurance, Providence said.

La Clinica is another local health care network offering diabetes education.

La Clinica’s The Learning Well education and support service offers a broad range of health and wellness classes and workshops, ranging from diabetes education to grief support to workforce training.

“People of our community who are struggling and need support and education have a lot of resources they can tap into,” said Jillian Robinette, director of The Learning Well.

Classes that could be useful for diabetics include Sugar Knock Out to eliminate sugar from your diet, Walking for Wellness and La Comida, a bilingual Spanish and English class about healthy eating, she said.

Robinette said diabetes can take a mental toll as well as a physical toll, but with more information about the illness, people can lead healthier lives.

“Often people don’t have a choice on the chronic conditions they have, but you do have a choice to diminish the symptoms and effects on your life,” she said.

For information about La Clinica classes, see thelearningwell.org.

AllCare Health has useful information about managing diabetes at allcarehealth.com/medicaid/resources/live-better-with-diabetes.

Jackson Care Connect, a major provider of Oregon Health Plan benefits in Jackson County, has information about diabetes management and how to access support services at jacksoncareconnect.org/members/getting-and-staying-healthy/diabetes.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.