UF alumna teams up with Equal Access Clinic to offer occupational therapy services
By Michelle Champalanne
Occupational therapists can help people regain skills others often take for granted — such as the ability to get dressed or eat alone. Unfortunately many people who need these services cannot always access them because of a lack of insurance.
A UF College of Public Health and Health Professions alumna and a team of UF occupational therapy students have set out to change this for residents in Alachua County with the establishment of the Occupational Therapy Equal Access Clinic in Gainesville. Lindsey Dhans, M.O.T., O.T.R./L, a recent graduate of the UF Masters in Occupational Therapy program, joined forces with the College of Medicine’s Equal Access Clinic — a student-run program that provides health services to uninsured and underinsured patients — to found the clinic in January.
“Access to rehab services is often limited, even for those who are insured,” said Meredith Campbell, director of specialty services for the Equal Access Clinic. “All too often, a patient’s occupational therapy rehabilitation benefits run out well before the full rehabilitation potential is reached.”
Ongoing rehabilitation through occupational therapy can help prevent additional illnesses or injuries that are caused by not being active, Dhans said.
“We know that occupational therapy can play a role in not only helping people regain function but return to independent living,” she said.
Activities such as getting dressed gain high value when they are taken away as a result of an injury, she said. The clinic works to continue rehabilitation services for clients so they can reach their fullest potential, even after their insurance runs out or if they don’t have it at all.
“It’s important for people to be able to engage in their everyday activities,” Dhans said.
Dhans works with occupational therapy graduate students Kelsey Iglesias, Shannon Plunkett, Meghan McMullen and Alyxandra Aldrich.
“This is something I felt very passionate about as well and I just wanted to be a part of it any way possible,” said Iglesias, who also works as a rehab aide at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital.
Iglesias is working to bring in more students who are looking to gain clinical experience, especially with occupational therapy.
“I think it’s great because we’re students having a chance to directly see patients and impact their care,” said Iglesias.
Fewer than 10 free community-based clinics exist across the country for occupational therapy. Gainesville is now home to the only free occupational therapy clinic in Florida, Dhans said.
Dhans, who has a background in community health and education, believes this clinic will be successful in Alachua County and hopes residents from other counties around the state will come, too.
“For me, being able to combine community health and education and bring life to this program was really exciting,” she said.
The clinic is open to the public from 6-9 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at UF Health Family Medicine – Main. Walk-ins are welcome but appointments are preferred. Call 352-672-6555 for more information.