Free access to sleep care is now available for people without health insurance in southeast Michigan. Established by a University of Michigan sleep epidemiologist, the new sleep medicine service aims to combat sleep disorders and help reduce poor health outcomes. 

“Unfortunately, those who are most susceptible to sleep disorders include low-income working adults, immigrants, and refugees,” says Galit Levi Dunietz, PhD, MPH, an associate professor in the University of Michigan Department of Neurology and Division of Sleep Medicine, in a release. “Medical care is often inaccessible for these underserved groups, and they never receive assessment or diagnosis for sleep disorders. Left untreated, they suffer from severe health consequences.”

Dunietz partnered with the Hope Clinic, a nonprofit organization committed to supporting underinsured and uninsured individuals, to provide free sleep care to underserved populations.

With locations in Ypsilanti and Westland, Mich, the clinics are situated in urban areas of the state with diverse communities, including many immigrants and refugees.

The organization provides free medical and dental care, behavioral health counseling, and food programs for vulnerable members of the community.

“We aim to provide the most extensive range of free healthcare services possible, but sleep medicine has not been accessible to us in the past,” says Ann Marie Peterson, a medical clinic manager at Hope Clinic, in a release. “There was a critical need for sleep care amongst our patients, which would have been far too expensive for them to receive anywhere else.”

In particular, many patients visiting Hope Clinic were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.

Without health insurance, evaluation for obstructive sleep apnea and its treatment are often inaccessible. Barriers to sleep apnea care include lack of access to a sleep physician, sleep apnea test, and CPAP machines.

The sleep medical care at Hope Clinic not only provides free evaluation and treatment for patients at risk of obstructive sleep apnea but also replaces dysfunctional, old CPAP machines and equipment needed to use them for individuals with sleep apnea without health insurance.    

To fund the clinical operations of the new program, Dunietz applied for the Community Sleep Health and Public Awareness Grant offered by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation. The grant funds were used to purchase devices for at-home sleep apnea testing and CPAP machines.

“We send our patients home with a non-invasive, fully portable device to test for sleep apnea,” says Dunietz in a release. “It relies on a highly innovative technology and is very convenient for our patients.”

The data from the home sleep apnea testing device is uploaded to the clinic’s cloud server and reviewed by a sleep physician. If the test results are indicative of sleep apnea, the patient returns to the clinic for a consultation with a respiratory therapist who provides the patient with a CPAP machine at no cost.

Dunietz recruited volunteer sleep physicians and respiratory therapists from the U-M and Henry Ford Sleep Disorders Centers to help run the clinics.

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