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An OTR’s Interventions Fill a Significant and Vital Gap in Primary Health Care for the Most Vulnerable Clients

Dr. Vanessa Dazio, an OTR at the CARES Claude Pepper Senior Health Clinic, developed and expanded the clinic’s first occupational therapy program as a way for the clinic to fill a gap in primary care.

Vanessa Dazio, OTD, OTR/L

Occupational Therapist, CARES Claude Pepper Senior Health Clinic

Owner, PROACTIVE Primary Care Services (newly developing)

Location: Florida

Certified in 1976

2021 NBCOT Impact Award Winner

Making an Impact by Caring for the Most Vulnerable

The CARES Claude Pepper Senior Health Clinic is a nonprofit clinic in New Port Richey, FL, that provides primary health care to older adults (aged 54-64) who are vulnerable, uninsured, and underserved. The clinic serves more than 900 clients who live in the community. Many of the clinic’s clients have not received health care in years; they have undiagnosed and untreated medical conditions that significantly affect their safety and abilities in activities of daily living. The clinic’s volunteer doctors and nurses must focus on determining medical diagnoses and prescriptive medical treatments, so they typically have little available time to address the specific functional challenges that limit a client’s health, abilities, and/or safety, resulting in an unintended gap in the provision of health care.

Dr. Vanessa M. Dazio, an OTR who joined the clinic four years ago, developed and expanded the clinic’s first occupational therapy program as a way for the clinic to fill the gap in primary care. She works with clients who are unsafe or at risk of injury or who have complex or newly developing health conditions, functional losses, or physical and emotional challenges.

Dr. Dazio’s overall knowledge and competence in the field of occupational therapy is continually tested and thoroughly demonstrated. Her OT interventions treat the needs of the whole patient and encompass a range of services, including acute and chronic disease management, fall prevention, risk reduction, home safety, physical and behavioral health management, pain/stress reduction, community mobility, and lifestyle redesign. She has worked on community integration and helped clients access community resources, such as food, clothing, disability benefits, social security benefits, and adult protective services.

Dr. Vanessa Dazio, OTR, helps an elderly female client position her walker.
Dr. Dazio working with a client at CARES Claude Pepper Senior Health Clinic.

Dr. Dazio’s efforts often reach above and beyond the duties of daily practice. She is a client advocate, providing caregiver training, grief counseling, and end-of-life counseling and working with outside agencies to connect clients with vital services and resources in the community. She has also helped the clinic write and find grants to support the provision of free assistive devices to clients.

Creating Lasting Impact to Improve Clients’ Lives

The impact of Dr. Dazio’s professional services has been visible, effective, and deeply appreciated by the CARES clinic’s entire medical team, her devoted clients, and her clients’ families and caregivers. Through Dr. Dazio’s work, the clinic has realized that occupational therapy fills a vital void in primary health care. Now, the clinic offers supportive skilled services beyond medical and diagnostic care, filling a gap that addresses safety and function through ADL training, injury prevention, psychosocial interventions, education, and other strategies used in occupational therapy to optimize health, wellness, and safety.

“Dr. Dazio has continually proven how OT fills a huge gap in primary care. As she works to identify and optimize client self-sufficiencies, our clients learn how to decrease personal risk factors, and better cope with physical, emotional, and psychosocial conditions that threaten safety or restrict active participation in daily life.”

Gisela Dalnoky, RN

Nurse Director

CARES Claude Pepper Senior Clinic

Dr. Dazio’s mastery of occupational therapy and her dedicated and extensive pro-bono work over the last four years have led to notable improvements in client outcomes, resulting in happier and more satisfied clients who can safely perform valued activities and better manage their own health and wellness.

Dr. Dazio’s efforts have also helped the clinic reduce health costs, client health risks, and environmental hazards. She has clearly added significant value within the CARES clinic’s primary care services, positively affecting and enhancing the lives of the most vulnerable clients.

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