4/23/2013 - Low income diabetic patients in Lake County now have another option when it comes to managing their disease and its symptoms. The Be Well-Lake County program is offering services in Waukegan at the Belvidere Medical Building after recognizing the strong need beyond its existing North Chicago clinic.

Be Well-Lake County, which is in its fourth year, is a partnership between NorthShore University HealthSystem and the Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center. The program has been operating solely out of the North Chicago clinic, but the increased demand for services elevated the need for expansion.

“NorthShore is excited by this expansion as we remain committed to providing these vital services to the underserved diabetic patients in Lake County,” says NorthShore’s Bufi Selimos, Senior Director Hospitals & Clinics.

More than 700 patients with diabetes have participated in the program since it began in 2009.  Patients of Be Well-Lake County receive assistance with medical care, medication and testing supplies, to help manage their diabetes. 

The most unique aspect of this program is its services and support, beyond the basics. In addition to medical and even specialty care, patients can take exercise classes at a local fitness center; work with a nutritionist to learn how to make healthier food choices; spend time with friends and grow fresh produce in the community garden; and participate in healthy cooking demonstrations. 

Waukegan resident Rebeca Garcia is among one of the first patients at the Belvidere Medical Building (2400 Belvidere Road in Waukegan) who is reaping the benefits of this new addition to the community. Garcia, 48, was diagnosed with diabetes in1998. She was aware of Be Well-Lake County for years, but was not able to enroll in the program due to its location. 

Because her mother had diabetes, Garcia knows all too well the need to manage the disease.  “When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I felt like I was going to die.  I was sad and I started to get depressed.”

Many patients have found, after being involved in the program for several months, they are able to live medication-free and instead maintain consistent blood glucose levels through lifestyle changes. This is due, in part, to the fully faceted services offered that address the patient’s whole being.

“Exercise helps my body and my mind, and it’s a lot of fun. I have learned a lot; my self-esteem is higher. People from the program have been teaching me how to eat, how to take my medications properly and how to be positive every day,” explains Garcia.

Garcia has developed a special friendship with her BWLC fitness trainer, who has also lost close family members to complications of diabetes. Rogelio Gomez is responsible for the personal training component at the Jump Start to Fitness Program that the Be Well program offers. Gomez has already noticed a difference in Garcia’s attitude in the short months she has been involved. 

“The motivation we get from each other, as a group, is so important.  Rebeca now believes that she can do things that look hard.  She has opened herself up to the [fitness] group.  By next year, she’ll be even more focused,” he says.

Being involved in Be Well-Lake County has given Garcia a second chance with her health. “It has meant my life, because if it was not for all the people that help me here in this place, I might be dead by now,” she reflects.

Funding for Be Well-Lake County is provided by NorthShore University HealthSystem with philanthropy in the form of charitable donations received from individuals. The program is open to individuals who are patients of the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center, have diabetes, and have their primary medical home in the North Chicago Health Center or Belvidere Medical Building. For more information visit northshore.org/bwlc or call 847-377-8055.