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Refugio County's Heritage Program helps seniors in need

Behavioral health program provides Telehealth services
Refugio County's Heritage Program
Posted at 5:40 AM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 07:43:09-05

REFUGIO, Texas — A program in Refugio County has been around for approximately 23 years. Now, it is expanding its services to neighboring counties to assist more seniors in need.

The Heritage Program at Refugio County Memorial Hospital provides an outpatient program for treatment for adult seniors ages 50 and up who suffer from emotional, behavioral or mental health disorders.

Program director Mark Fitzsimmons said the program provides supportive group therapy for the patients in the program.

The patients usually have a need for Medicare in their life. They also may be of age, have a disability or have gone through some significant life changes.

“So we help them work through those changes, help them work through those situations, help them cope with these things that have affected their lives,” said Fitzsimmons, a licensed therapist.

The program has implemented Telehealth services and can better serve those in need in Aransas, Goliad and Bee counties.

Program director Fitzsimmons said the program is one of the first in the nation to do hybrid therapy benefitting those who cannot travel due to their physical situation and because of the pandemic.

“We have people who aren’t really able to get out," Fitzsimmons said. "Most of the nursing homes are shut down right now. So we do have some people from nursing home. The only way they are going to get some kind of program like we have is to do Telehealth."

The program is supported by traditional Medicare through the Refugio County Memorial Hospital. Between five and 10 patients are being treated per session, including in person and online services. The program takes about 45 minutes.

Counselor Steve Gengenbacher said he uses humor in his group sessions and wants his patients to share their feelings and improve their quality of life.

“Getting them to laugh and relax is probably one of the main goals," Gengenbacher said. "If they come out of there saying I’ve learned something and I’ve enjoyed it, we’ve done our job."

Gengenbacher said a major value to him is that he can provide service to these people through this program as he learns along with them in each therapy session.

“It's really for me a mutual benefit for us," he said. "Yes, they have a professional therapist there but I come to them not as a professional therapist but as a human being."

For more information on the program you can visit here.