The Best Thing That Has Happened to St. John… In My Opinion.

Sandy Colasacco
Sandy Colasacco is the founder and executive director of the Island Health and Wellness Center. (She is one of the most important members of the St. John community in my opinion.)
For the past four years, we’ve been telling you about the daily happenings on St. John. We’ve told you about the best bars and restaurants, businesses that have closed, businesses that have opened, island events, and much more. We tend to stick to things that appeal to the masses (beaches, restaurants and overall fun) while we tend to shy away from some of the deeper topics that affect the island. Well we’re changing things up a bit today. We’re going to talk about healthcare here on St. John. I hope you all read on…

St. John has the highest rate of uninsured people in the entire US Virgin Islands. The number of uninsured here is actually five times more than the national average. A recent survey found that 72 percent of people living here do not have insurance that covers primary care services and 56 percent of residents have no insurance at all.

You’re probably asking yourselves “why”. Well unless you’re working for a larger corporation like the Westin or Caneel Bay, for example, it’s pretty difficult to get health insurance here. It simply does not exist. So it’s not that we don’t want to pay for health insurance; many of us simply cannot get it.

So who exactly are the uninsured? Well many are active members of the community – your servers, bartenders, boat captains and crew, retail personnel and manual laborers who work hard to keep the tourism industry thriving and the community strong.

So what do people do when they’re in need of healthcare? Honestly, many put it off. That same survey we mentioned above showed that more than 70 percent of St. John residents have delayed or avoided healthcare when primarily due to high costs and inability to pay. Seventy percent. This, in turn, often makes for worsening conditions, higher rates of morbidities and mortalities, and a community not as healthy as it should be.

island health and wellnessWell all of this is about to change thanks to a new non-profit, primary health care practice here on island – the Island Health and Wellness Center. It’s honestly a godsend to our community.

The Island Health and Wellness Center welcomes everyone – both residents and visitors – and all visits cost just $50. If lab testing is needed, there may be an additional $50 to $100 cost; however no one will ever be turned away due to inability to pay. The Center offers everything from sick visits and physicals to women’s health exams and family planning to chronic health management. (The Center does not accept insurance of any kind.)

The Island Health and Wellness Center is the brainchild of Sandy Colasacco. Sandy is a Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner. As a healthcare provider in the Territory, Sandy has seen, first-hand, the lack of affordable health care options. So she decided to do something about it. And what she has created is simply amazing. We cannot thank you enough Sandy.

As we mentioned, the Center is a non-profit which means it relies solely on donations and grants. One of the great things about running News of St. John is that we have the ability to raise money. So we’re holding a pretty amazing raffle to support the new Island Health and Wellness Center. Stay tuned for more info on that.

And for those of you who would like to donate to the Center, you can do so by clicking this link. (Scroll down to the Donate button.)

The Center is located in Palm Plaza, which is across from St. John Market near the Westin. It is open Monday through Friday with varying hours depending on the day. Call (340) 714-4270 to make an appointment. You can also visit its website to learn more at www.islandhealthcenter.org

29 thoughts on “The Best Thing That Has Happened to St. John… In My Opinion.”

  1. This is FABULOUS news!!! Most people don’t understand that because the USVI opted out of “obamacare”, there is NO individual health insurance available in the islands. None. Only group health is available, and most businesses do not carry it unless they are required to do so by EDC (for large companies 20+ employees). I have been working with stateside carriers and the USVI Department of Insurance to bring some individual options to the territory, but it’s a long slow and frustrating process. Thank God this healthcare option is now available!!!

  2. So if there is no option for individual coverage (even if you can pay for it) what does one do if they have an emergency illness? Or chronic illness? Or children? Or if they are on Medicare?

    Do they seek care on St. Croix or something?

    Glad to see this new access point for care. Just wondering what folks do if they need an appendectomy or something like that. Wow, scary.

    • Exactly. We do have Medicaid down here, but I do not know the logistics behind that.

      We would have to go to the hospital in St. Thomas is we had an emergency and pay out of pocket.

      • I have an expatriate policy out of London that declined to cover my need to have an ovary removed due to large cysts. The procedure is $8,000 plus. While I was seen initially by the new nonprofit clinic, they can’t help me now.
        With over 20 years of experience living here I do not trust surgery at St. Thomas hospital. Medicaid requires zero assets and income under $970/month. Medicaid is not easily accepted by local specialists, and will not cover treatment stateside.
        We need a solution. Meanwhile, I try homeopathic and hope.

        • if Dr Robin Tattersall is still practicing on Tortola, you should make every effort to talk to him………..he does everything from my hernia, to breast augmentation, to facelifts, and i would think most anything that he thinks he has the proper support to do….He has his own clinic, where you can spend a night or more after the surgery…….

    • Cathy,

      I currently live on St. Croix, after having lived on St. Thomas for 8 years – I can tell you the LAST place one would want to go for even basic service is St. Croix, based on my experience! I have traveled from St. Croix to St. Thomas for health care. As for emergencies (or check-ups, dental visits, children’s visits, etc.), you pay out of pocket…and would have to go to St. Thomas’ ER, as stated above. Something many people don’t consider before moving here, unfortunately. This is GREAT news for St. John! Happy to hear it…leave it to my favorite island to step up for their community!!

      • Several years ago we were having our anniversary on St Croix.we were staying a Villa Madeline. Perfect view and a beautiful cottage but lurking a night a tropical cinoepede which bit me. We had no idea where the hospital was but made it by directions in the rain . They treated me promptly and took my Insurance , no problem . I felt so great full for the treatment as my foot was on fire .

  3. Thanks for posting and helping everyone on the mainland understand some of the difficulties you face on island. I’m so happy for everyone! The fund raiser was the icing on the cake, Jenn. Great job!
    Congratulations, islanders! Everyone deserves affordable healthcare!!!

  4. I’m just a little confused! As far as visitor’s go … don’t you have a hospital and a walk-in on SJ?
    Would it be best for a visitor to go to the hospital, the walk in close to the ferry dock or your Wellness Center? Wouldn’t you except the visitor’s insurance? I’m sure your services are more than $50! It’s a wonderful service for the islanders. I just think the visitors would love to use your service but you should be paid appropriately for them.
    I’m a yearly vacationer on St John. I love SJ and the people of the island. I always worry about what we would do if we became ill while there. I’m sure other visitor’s worry too.

    • The “hospital” is pricier and I believe you pay upfront and then seek reimbursement from your insurer. And it’s not a real hospital, it’s a clinic. The real hospital is over on St. Thomas.

      The clinic near the ferry is only for limited services.

      The new clinic is the way to go for those who do not have insurance. And yes, the cost of care far exceeds the $50 charge. But people don’t have hundreds of dollars to pay for care. That is why this clinic is so important. It’s accessible to everyone regardless of cost. That’s also why we’re working so hard to get it funding. 🙂

  5. Sandy and her small team have put their hearts, souls, and resources into making this Health and Wellness Center available. Bravo for their tenacity in bringing it to life, but they need all of us who care about St. John, to pitch in financially in order to keep it alive and well.

  6. If a person needs a prescription can these folks write it?
    What is the education required to be a nurse practitioner?
    Who is the small team referred to in Susan’s comment?

    • Fellow NP here. Great undertaking~ Kudos to Sandy!! I practiced for almost 30 yrs in a small Family Practice and this Clinic sounds GREAT- like medicine should be practiced. To the person who asked about training and prep- NPs are Board Certified (national exam) and then have to have ongoing continuing education. We are trained to provide preventative care, evaluate, diagnose, manage/ treat both acute and chronic illnesses, write prescriptions, order tests, order treatments (or provide them). I had patients who had no idea what the Dr looked like when I retired.

    • Hi Kaye,
      Yes, we can write prescriptions if needed. As a nurse practitioner, I have a masters in nursing (my degree is from Duke University) and was required to do years of clinical study as well as a residency. I also passed my boards to receive national certification. Right now, everyone helping, myself included, is on a volunteer basis. We have a few amazing women that volunteer a day or two a week each to help with daily operations. Feel free to check out our website for more information on myself and others involved. Let me know if I can answer any other questions! Thank you so much to Jenn and everyone for the support!

      • Sandy, I am Yearly visitor to St. John. It is my favorite place.. Congrats to you and your team for working to bring affordable care to the island. And I was delighted to learn you are a Duke Grad. I was the dean of that SON for nearly 14 years and started the FNP program. Thanks again for your good work. Mary Champagne

        • Thank you Mary! Such a small world! I had a great experience at Duke SON…thank you for starting the program! Next time you are on island, stop by Island Health! I would love to meet you and show you around!

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