Direct Access: What it is and why you want to know about it

Much as a dented car does not get fixed by parking it on the side of the road, nor does a body hindered by injury or pain get healed without attention. Injuries and pain require evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.  Lucky for us, the State of Connecticut offers a healthcare benefit that simplifies the process of getting treated. It’s called Direct Access and it’s a benefit worth knowing about.

Direct Access is a statewide program that eliminates the need for a primary care physician referral prior to seeing a Rehabilitation Therapist. The streamlined process — which allows up to six visits with an RVNAhealth physical therapist at the RVNAhealth Rehabilitation & Wellness Center without a physician referral — is both cost-effective and allows individuals to enjoy swifter diagnosis and relief. In other words, it helps you get better faster.

This little-known benefit began in Connecticut in 2006 to provide patients more immediate diagnosis and relief.  “Direct Access is an expedited way to get to the root cause and treat, rather than just self-diagnose — or ignore — both of which can prolong the issue but are tempting when the process of getting to a therapist is belabored,” says Gigi Weiss, MSPT, RVNAhealth Director of Rehabilitation Therapies. “Ultimately, Direct Access allows you to get in quickly to increase stability, relieve discomfort, and prevent worsening,”

Weiss encourages those with intermittent pain, mild injury, mobility limitations, or other chronic conditions to leverage the Direct Access program not just for minimization of discomfort but for proper diagnosis and treatment. “Often patients self-treat without success because symptoms are not always representative of the core issue,” says Weiss. “For example, neck issues can present as wrist pain so tending to the wrist won’t address the root cause and won’t provide much relief, especially long term. In many cases, the six visits granted through Direct Access get an individual well on their way to healing.”

Direct access can also benefit individuals with lingering difficulties from a health episode, like swallowing, fine motor skills, or communication. In these cases, Direct Access provides a fast track to restorative visits with an appropriate clinician.

At RVNAhealth, the rehabilitation team also collaborates with insurance providers and primary care physicians to coordinate coverage and treatment so patients can focus on wellness. For more information or to schedule a Direct Access assessment, visit or call  (203) 438-7862.


Ridgefield’s Nurse-Family Partnership program builds lasting connections with mothers

Ridgefield Press | Author: Kaitlin Lyle | September 7, 2022


For new mom and Danbury resident Marcia Valdes, a local program for first-time mothers and their babies has provided an invaluable support system.

Nurse-Family Partnership program has been around for about 40 years – starting in Colorado and making its way to western Connecticut two years ago.

“I love it,” Valdes said of the program. “It’s great because as a first-time mom, you have a lot of questions. You’re always concerned … things change because your life’s changed.”

RVNAhealth enrolled its first client for the program in March 2020, just a week before everything closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After offering virtual visits during COVID-19, the program is back to doing home visits but continues to offer virtual visits as an option.

Jennifer Taborda, a registered nurse with RVNAhealth, said the program, funded by the state’s Office of Early Childhood, is completely free and voluntary for families.

The program enrolls expecting mothers at 29 weeks or less of pregnancy and the nurses stay with the families until their baby is 2 years old.

Throughout the program, Taborda said the nurses build long-term relationships with the mothers and watch their babies grow. Once the babies turn 2 years old, she said they have graduation ceremonies for the babies.

During their involvement with the program, families are provided with education, support and connections to resources for services like housing, food, and counseling.

Additionally, Taborda said the program’s nurses conduct health, growth and development screenings for the babies and provide education and resources for children, including services that provide early intervention for children that are behind in their development.

“I would say as a first-time mom, having a free program like this is huge,” Taborda said. “Having support, having education – especially for some of our moms who don’t understand what’s happening to their body during pregnancy.”

Taborda said the mothers are educated on what to expect during labor and the risks that could occur. A lot of the time, she said, the mothers don’t have the understanding of what’s going on with their bodies; there are some mothers that didn’t have parents that engaged and played with them. Understanding that it’s okay to get down on the floor and play with one’s child, Taborda said, is educational for both the mothers and their children.

Taborda said the program has helped mothers get their college applications started and set goals for themselves. She said the program strives to set its families up for lifelong success – both for the families and the children – and to make sure they understand the importance of health visits for their children and self care for themselves.

RVNAhealth Director of Community Health and Wellness and Nurse Family Partnership Program Administrator Laura Shulman Cordeira said first-time mothers benefit from the program, in that they’re more likely to have full-term babies and less likely to have low birth weight babies.

Other benefits are mothers are more likely to initiate breastfeeding; attend their prenatal and postpartum appointments; bring their children to their pediatric appointments during their first year of life; set goals for themselves and become more self-sufficient economically.

Through the program, Cordeira said children are less likely to be in the hospital during their first two years of life as a result of an accidental injury; they’re also less likely to have behavioral or intellectual problems at age 6.

Additionally, she said the children involved in the program are less likely to be in any sort of juvenile detention system.

“I mean, it’s really incredible how long-lasting these results can be,” Cordeira said.

Though she’s been a nurse for nine years, Taborda said her work with the Nurse-Family Partnership program is “the first job I feel very connected with and definitely get a sense of fulfillment.”

As a member of a “small, but mighty” team of nurses with the Nurse-Family Partnership program, Taborda is a personal nurse for first-time mothers in Region 5 of Connecticut, which includes the Northwest Corner, Waterbury, Danbury, New Milford, New Hartford and Torrington.

Out of the 37 families enrolled in the Nurse-Family Partnership program, Taborda works with 21 clients – one of whom is Valdes and her 9-month-old son, Anthony.

Valdes was 17 weeks pregnant when she was advised to call the Nurse-Family Partnership program. She said she texted Taborda, who texted back to explain how the program works. They set up a Facetime call to see how things might work and their relationship grew from there.

During her pregnancy, Valdes said she was concerned about her weight, so Taborda gave her a book to help with her nutrition. Now, every other week, Taborda comes to Valdes’ house to visit her and baby Anthony — sometimes bringing formula, diapers, wipes, creams, toys and books and sitting down to play with Anthony while she and Valdes talk.

Among some of her own questions, Valdes said she was concerned when Anthony was between 4 and 6 months and hadn’t yet rolled over. She was also concerned about his sleep because Anthony “was never a good sleeper.”

Opening up about her experiences as a first-time mother, Valdes said her favorite moment is nursing: “It’s challenging, but it’s the moment you have your baby and he needs you and that moment is just the both of you and it’s amazing.”

Reflecting on how she’d encourage others to enroll in the program, Taborda said, “I was a teen mother myself. If I had this program, it would’ve changed my life. There’s so much to learn. The support is just fantastic. … When our moms leave our program, they’re able to advocate for themselves and they’re going to be okay.”

Living LOUD Classes

Living LOUD tackles the soft voice, mumbled speech, monotone speech and hoarse voice that often afflict Parkinson’s patients. Structured activities that continue to work the patient’s vocal range maintain the progress made after the LSVT LOUD treatment. Weekly activities will include group work as well as individual exercises with other participants facilitated by an LSVT LOUD speech therapist. The ultimate goal is to improve loudness, improve speech intelligibility, increase facial expression, and improve confidence.

Classes are held on Thursdays from 11am-12pm at RVNAhealth, 27 Governor Street, Ridgefield. To learn more about the Living Loud program, please call (203) 438-7862   or email

Balance & Beyond

RVNAhealth is excited to announce the introduction of its new public fitness class, “Balance & Beyond.”  An ongoing weekly drop-in class (come for one or come for all!) that focuses on building muscle, restoring balance and improving your walk or jog, all while giving your brain a great workout!

Balance can be a life essential to preventing falls and keeping daily activities of life within our control. The old adage of “use it or lose it’ doesn’t ring more true when it comes to strength.  This is why Andrea de Lange, RVNAhealth Physical Therapist, is so passionate about bringing balance and strength classes to the public.

“This program is beneficial for so many people — whether you are just looking to improve your strength or balance to improve quality of life, or you are looking for a customized fitness program to assist with medical conditions such as Parkinson’s, arthritis, or autoimmune disorders,” says de Lange. “This circuit training class will have you moving through a series of stations including boxing, agility training, and functional mobility conditioning – all customized to meet your fitness levels and goals. And there is plenty of time for questions and personalized instruction and feedback!”

Andrea de Lange is experienced Physical Therapist and certified LSVT BIG practitioner with a long history of working with the outpatient orthopedic and neurological population. She possesses a strong background in the treatment of spine, extremity injuries and pain, as well as neurological impairment, with a focus on people with Parkinson’s disease.

RVNAhealth’s Balance & Beyond classes are offered every Monday and Thursday from 12:00pm-1:00pm at the RVNAhealth Rehabilitation & Wellness Center located at 27 Governor Street, Ridgefield. Class fees are $30 per class and registration is required in advance, as attendance is limited.  For questions, please contact the RVNAhealth Rehabilitation & Wellness Center at 203.438.7862 or To register, signup online HERE.

Gail Dawson


Hometown: New Milford, CT

“Gail is always cheerful.  She does her work and more.  She always asks questions on what more she can do.” – Client, Clint Lofgren, New Milford CT

Kristy Huizinga 


Hometown: Danbury, CT

“Kristy is wonderful! She is kind, caring, and dependable. My husband and I adore her. She takes excellent care of him.” – Client, Sandra L.

Saira Morales


Hometown: Danbury, CT

“Saira was extremely patient and reassuring during a time that caused great anxiety for my husband” – Client, M.C., Ridgefield, CT

Isaac Sanchez


Hometown: Oakville, CT

“Isaac went above and beyond for their care of my husband. She remarked that Isaac offered tips for end-of-life care and truly appreciated and helpful.” – Client, M.C., Ridgefield, CT

Thozama “Precious” Ntuli  


Hometown: Waterbury, CT

“I can’t tell you enough how amazing Precious has been with her client.  She is super knowledgeable, great at carrying over all instructions and has been instrumental to her client in making great gains and she loves Precious.– RVNAhealth Physical Therapist, Lynn Schneider