For Marin Community Clinics’ patient Austin, the COVID-19 pandemic marks the low point of his life. The period lingers fresh in the 35-year-old’s mind, as it was only last year that he found himself out of a construction job due to the pandemic, no longer having a place to live or the means to pay rent. and going through a difficult break-up that separated him from his daughter. He felt that his entire world was falling apart, and he was sinking into a deep depression. Worried about his health, and knowing he hadn’t seen a doctor in years, he began making calls in an effort to get enrolled in Medi-Cal. He scheduled an appointment to visit the Clinics. What happened next is difficult for him to talk about. Medical test results revealed Austin had HIV.
The diagnosis was unexpected, and, given the compounded issues happening in his life at the time, devastating for Austin. “I was angry. It still messes me up to think about it,” he explained of the diagnosis. Austin knew he needed help, and had very few social connections locally, having just moved to Marin for work before the pandemic.
A Place to Go
Fortunately, this was not something he would have to go through on his own. Marin Community Clinics was there. It’s where he was connected to Complex Care Case Manager, Jodie Campbell, MSW, and agreed to work with her. He also began receiving primary care and HIV specialty care at the Clinics.
Campbell connected him to one of our Behavioral Health specialists, and helped secure housing for him in collaboration with the County of Marin’s Project Room Key program. Equally important, she listened to him and helped him recognize his achievements and progress. “Getting connected to a Case Manager made the biggest difference for me,” explained Austin, “otherwise I probably would’ve just been lost in the system. Having a Case Manager is how I got connected to housing, and it’s how I got connected to all these services.”
Finding a Way (And a Friend)
For Austin, the priority became finding the strength and will to live. Having joined the military at age 19, and completing deployments to Kuwait and Iraq, Austin is a survivor. He experienced the loss of his mother at a very young age, and has overcome several traumatic events in his life since. Without much to look forward to during the pandemic, and not long after his diagnosis, Austin needed a friend. He decided to get a dog. “It was the best decision I’ve ever made. She’s my best friend,” he said, referring to his 1-year-old husky, Kita.
Today, Austin has a home, recently purchased a motorcycle, and is searching for full-time work. He looks after Kita, and he’s deeply focused on his passion – making and recording electronic music. He’s taking classes to learn how to mix and master tracks through a local recording instruction school.
While his journey is far from over, with the help of Marin Community Clinics, Austin has made incredible strides. Things are beginning to look up, and he understands how far he’s come in such a short amount of time. “I’m going to fmd a way. I have to. It can only go up from here. I have my music, I have my motorcycle, and I have Kita. I’m going to live my life.” Taking it one step at a time, Austin’s incredible comeback is well underway.
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