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ROC with WISH: Three Businesswomen Team with UR Medicine Program to Improve Community’s Wellness

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Karen Rogers, owner of Exercise Express, is one of the businesswomen in ROC with WISH, which along with a program from UR Medicine has a grant to improve care for people eligible for Medicaid. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

Three African American businesswomen will be taking their team approach to community wellness to the next level.

Karen Rogers, Linda Harrell-Davis and Monica Szymanski, who for several years have combined their expertise in exercise, stress management and life-skills coaching, received a state grant to expand their services.

Their businesses – Exercise Express, Me Time Massage and Wellness Center, and Samaritan Center of Excellence – have partnered with the Women’s Initiatives Supporting Health run by UR Medicine, to form ROC with WISH.

The collaboration received $454,756 to improve care for people eligible for Medicaid. Their premise is that by addressing all of a person’s needs – not just their medical diagnosis – the individual is better able to manage their health, find and keep a job and overall be more productive and successful.

“The ultimate goal is to restore families and community,” said Szymanski, executive director of Samaritan Center of Excellence. “From them working with us, it’s a beginning. It’s not say when they’re done with us, everything will be perfect. But you have the idea, you have a method to make that next step.”

Under the grant, ROC with WISH needs to serve an additional 330 people by July 2020 and document the results.

“We want to prove that our model works,” said Rogers, owner of Exercise Express.

ROC with WISH receives referrals through Medicaid managed care organizations and by word of mouth. Once an individual is linked with one of the services, the person can be referred to the others.

Linda Harrell-Davis, Me Time Massage and Wellness. Provided photo

Exercise Express focuses on workouts, diabetes prevention, nutrition workshops and health education. Me Time Massage offers licensed massage therapists and other stress reduction techniques. Samaritan Center of Excellence helps women in recovery from substance abuse or who have been in the criminal justice system to rebuild their lives. The three businesses are at 200 West. Ave. All three businesses have certification to work with adults receiving home- and community-based behavorial health services.

Women’s Initiatives Supporting Health, part of the UR Medicine Department of Psychiatry, is a medical clinic for women who’ve been in the criminal justice system.

ROC with WISH’s social service programs also are open to men.

“We realize the impact that community services agencies have on the overall health of the community,” said Janet King, director of System Transformation for the Finger Lakes Performing Provider System, which awarded the grant as part of the state’s multiyear Medicaid Redesign program.

King said that medicine alone can’t cure people. “They can go to the doctor and get the clinical piece. It’s the community-based services that ultimately provide the supports necessary to help people actually get well.”

ROC with WISH builds on existing relationships that Rogers, Harrell-Davis and Szymanski already have with clients. They or they staff have lived much of what their clients have gone through, and peer coaching is a crucial part of the ROC with WISH model.

“They can have a conversation with their clients that a medical provider might not be able to have,” King said.

If medical advice is needed, clients can be referred to UR Medicine’s WISH program. All the services are at no charge to eligible participants.

Monica Szymanski, Samaritan Center of Excellence. Provided photo

On the surface, ROC with WISH is about health promotion. But it’s also about reducing generational poverty. Szymanski said that people often don’t know they have options, and that teaching them skills to pursue work or school helps their family.

“If your mom or someone breaks that cycle, you’re more likely to follow because you see it’s possible. It’s the possibility. … This cycle of poverty, we can’t erase it. But it’s a beginning.”

To learn about eligibility for ROC with WISH, call:

  • Exercise Express: (585) 454-6478
  • Me Time Massage: (585) 301-7177
  • Samaritan Center of Excellence: (585) 232-1900
  • UR Medicine WISH program (585) 402-4443.