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Healthcare Equity a Priority for Bay Pines VA Social Workers as they celebrate Professional Social Work Month

Bay Pines VA Social Work Services DEI Champions
Bay Pines VA Social Worker Dr. Monica Mooring and Social Work Services Chief Alisha Stanton are championing the importance of social determinants of health with their service's DEI committee to improve awareness and provide education that can make a direct impact in providing Veterans across southwest Florida with the soonest and best care.

Social workers across Bay Pines VA Healthcare System are taking an inward approach to serving Veterans in the community through a renewed focus on the social determinants of health.

“Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee continually thinks about health care equity and our roles within our healthcare system,” said Bay Pines VA HUD/VASH Clinical Social Worker Dr. Monica Mooring.  “It’s essential for everyone to recognize that health care equity historically has not been equal, and there have been and continue to be significant disparities.” 

Bay Pines VA social workers and the facilities Social Determinants of Health Committee are incorporating a two-focus approach by working with leadership to infuse awareness to employees and the creation of multiple team-based initiatives focused on healthcare equity.   

“Every primary clinic throughout our organization has been screening for homelessness and food insecurity for more than a decade to ensure we identify vulnerable Veterans and provide them with resources,” added Bay Pines VA Social Work Services Chief Alisha Stanton. “Most recently, we have expanded our screening to include 9 social needs by becoming an ACORN.”

According to Stanton, those areas include: 

  • Social Isolation
  • Digital Needs
  • Food
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Education
  • Utilities
  • Legal Needs, and 
  • Employment

“There’s often a stigma from many Veterans we encounter who ask, ‘Is the VA helpful to me?’ or ‘Am I going to get quality health care?’,” continued Mooring. “The answer is always, ‘Yes,’ and what we’re doing is pioneering a way for everyone to understand that Bay Pines VA is a welcoming, safe, and inclusive environment for all.” 

Bay Pines VA social workers have received notoriety over the past year, including a national VA rank at number seven in the country for helping Veterans achieve permanent housing. However, the importance of addressing social determinants of health reaches far beyond housing concerns for the DEI committee who believes inequities shift when issues are addressed effectively. 

“We have a sense of urgency because there are so many underserved populations and different types of people,” continued Mooring. “By being aware of this reality, owning that truth, and saying it out loud, we lay a foundation whereby social workers and health care providers can meet the standard of providing the soonest and best care to Veterans.”

Underserved populations include classifications of Veterans who may fall into a minority category based on age, sex, race, nationality, financial inequity, and/or sexual orientation.

Stanton and her team have been exploring data for Veterans who are women, LGBTQ+, and/or identify as Black or Asian American/Pacific Islander.

“By taking a look at social determinants of health, we elevate our understanding of Veterans throughout our catchment,” added Mooring. “We understand that every employee across our organization owns the responsibility to treat everyone we serve with dignity and respect, and it’s up to us to set and maintain that standard.”

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