Currently, half of all pregnancies in Vermont are unintended. These pregnancies often result in unhealthy mothers and babies and their long-term wellbeing. Vermont has launched the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), which will “ensure women’s health providers have the resources they need to help women be well, avoid unintended pregnancies, and build thriving families.”
The statewide program is for women who visit women-specific health care providers, such as OBGYN offices, midwifery practices, and family planning clinics. These practices will provide screening to assess mental health, substance abuse, trauma, partner violence, and access to food and housing. Women identified as at risk will immediately be connected to a WHI social worker for brief intervention and counseling, and referral to more intensive treatment as needed. Each social worker is a member of a local Community Health Team and will connect women with a network of health, social, economic, and community service providers in their area.
Kathy Mai, MSW, is the WHI social worker who will assess and work with patients at the Women’s Center. She is currently a social worker at Behavioral Health and Wellness Center (BHWC) and a member of the Community Health Team. She will perform standardized screening, discuss options, provide access to contraception, and make available same-day treatment if necessary.
“As I learned more about the WHI, I saw it was also an opportunity to work with women and also to collaborate with community providers to create and increase access to care, as well as resources, with the overarching goal of improving women’s, children’s, and family’s health and wellness,” Mai says. “The initiative focuses on prevention, a rather novel approach for a culture that often intervenes and responds during or after crises, or when problems are already present. It’s exciting to be part of the initiative from the ground up. And the work—screening, case management, brief intervention, counseling—is similar to what I currently do at BHWC, as well as other social work positions I’ve held.”
Mai hopes to help develop a model that incorporates what the Women’s Center already does in terms of screening and assessment and make it more comprehensive, based on WHI principles and best-practices. “I want to provide brief counseling for women at the Women’s Center based on individual needs. As the medical social worker I’m also looking at potential groups I could offer based on client needs. I’m really excited about the varied opportunities.”
CHSLV received funding from the Vermont Blueprint for Health to start WHI at Copley Hospital’s Women’s Center.