How Sanford and Fairview are improving access to care

As Sanford Health and Fairview Health Services plan to join forces, nonprofit leaders are already dreaming of strengthening communities together.

“At the heart of everything Sanford Health does is to serve our patients, our people and our communities,” said Bill Gassen, president and CEO of Sanford Health.

“That’s why we exist as an organization. This is something that sets us apart from others who are involved in the healthcare ecosystem. As a community 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, we are proud of our opportunity and privilege to serve our communities.”

Over the years, Sanford and Fairview employees have spent countless hours building trusted community partnerships to increase access to quality, equitable healthcare. The goal is to get to know everyone, no matter where they come from or where they are.

“It’s not ‘come and tell our communities what they should do. It’s about engaging with them, listening to them and then programming to help support them,” said James Hereford, president and CEO of Fairview Health Services.

There are many examples of this strategy for Sanford and Fairview.

there is one Fairview Community Health and Wellness Center in the center of St. Paul, Minnesota. The Hub is a first-of-its-kind hub providing critical healthcare services and community resources alongside local partners. From food access to a cultural broker program, the Hub makes it easy for people to get what they need to feel good. A wide range of behavioral health options are also available in the Hub.

“Everything Happens in Community”

Often, a mobile ward consisting mainly of nurses arrives and leaves the Center daily. Many pack their supplies and head to local libraries, mosques or the Mexican Consulate in St. Paul in order to use the MINI clinic. MINI stands for Minnesota Immunization Networking Initiative.

“This is our Center, but everything happens in the community,” said Ingrid Johansen, senior manager of community clinical care at Fairview’s Community Advancement.

Fairview helps run MINI Clinics, working with 200 community partners to close the gap in vaccination rates for the Colored and Native American communities in the Twin Cities Metro. Serving 20 clinics a week, Johansen’s team has distributed nearly 10,000 flu vaccines for free this season. Another 56,000 COVID-19 vaccines have also been administered since the start of the pandemic.

“Fairview is a great resource for healthcare professionals who can offer services to the Mexican and Hispanic communities,” said Oswaldo Cabrera of the Mexican Consulate in St. Paul.

The Cabrera office is also familiar with Sanford Health and serves people in South Dakota and North Dakota in addition to Minnesota.

“We had the opportunity to work together in one of the mobile units in Worthington, Minnesota, and I would like to thank Sanford for supporting us and supporting the migrant community,” Cabrera said.

Food is medicine

The main social determinant of health is access to food. Both health systems are tackling food insecurity with innovative programmes.

“We have a fantastic partner in Feeding South Dakota. We get about 1,700 pounds of food a week,” said Joe Segeleon, MD, vice president and physician at Sanford Children’s in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Those who report needing food during discreet screening are provided with a bag of essentials before returning home from Sanford Children’s Hospital. Dr Segeleon says the pantry known as Kid’s Kitchen is making a difference for families coming in for care.

“We are able to provide them with food for a few days or hygiene products. More importantly, our social workers also connect them to resources that can help them in their communities,” said Dr. Segeleon.

Sanford’s Southwest Children’s Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota, distributed nearly 23,000 pounds of food from its wellness pantry in the first year of 2021.

“We see a much greater need than we anticipated,” said Maggie Luschen, a Sanford social worker. “I hope it gives them a sense of hope, peace and comfort during the most difficult times of their lives.”

“Grateful for What They Do”

After returning to Hub in St. Paul Fairview works with the Sanneh Foundation and others to deliver food to those who have difficulty finding it.

“Fairview really prioritizes supporting our local food systems through our programs,” said Teresa Hill, food systems strategy overseer at Fairview’s Community Advancement. “Thinking of it as treating symptoms and providing people with healthy food while working to transform a system that is not working for so many in our communities. We contract with local breeders, BIPOC small farmers who represent the diverse cultures that live in the Twin Cities.”

Some of the food packed at the Hub by Fairview and Sanneh goes to the Conway Community Centre.

“We’re currently on the east side of St. Paul, where the largest food deserts are located,” said Brandon Griffin of the Sanneh Foundation. “There are few places where you can get fresh, nutritious and healthy food. Really for those culturally specific foods.

Sammy Stanley often visits the food distribution center in the center. She is one of over 80 families she serves weekly.

“I’d have to catch three buses to get to that kind of food,” Stanley said. “I can say, hey, I’m very grateful and I’m grateful for what they’re doing.”

“Respecting the people we are”

Creating safe spaces where all people can receive care with respect is an ongoing effort of any healthcare system.

At Sanford Behavioral Health in Bemidji, Minnesota, Mindie Bird and Joe Beaudreau run the world-certified Wellbriety program.

“More than 20,000-25,000 Native Americans live in this area,” said Beaudreau, a White Earth team member from Ojibwe.

“We have a lot of people who come here depending on healthcare, good healthcare, but also on being treated not only as equals but with respect for the people we are.”

Bird, a licensed addiction counselor from the Black Feet Nation in northern Montana, says Wellbriety’s program includes traditional Native American healing practices, and few non-Native agencies have sought certification.

“When I got here, Sanford was amazing at saying how do we do it? How do we become culturally open and how can we help you?” The bird said. “One of the first things I said is that we need to create a community here. We need to create a safe place where people can come here and experience the cultural connections they are familiar with.”

In addition to networking culturally and building trust, Beaudreau, a former paramedic, says Sanford Health also provides specialist services in rural areas.

“In EMS, we would take people from our hospital here and transport them to another hospital for a specialist service. We did it all the time,” said Beaudreau. “Because we didn’t have a cardio and vascular center like we do now. We didn’t have the orthopedic clinic we have now, and we definitely didn’t have the cancer center we have now.”

“Giving hope to the community” through cultural intermediaries

Navigating the healthcare system, among other things, can be an incredible challenge for people with language and cultural barriers.

For the past five years, Fairview’s cultural intermediaries have been reaching out to members of the Twin Cities community to help them stay healthy, learn about the court system, file for Social Security, and more.

Six brokers serve the five cultural communities in the Twin Cities. These communities include African American, Hmong, Karen, Indian, and Latino.

Selene Mercado moved to this area from Mexico.

Mercado says that cultural intermediaries made her feel “that help is there, that help is here, that we are not alone and that there are really people who really want to help us.”

“Fairview doesn’t just connect with the community. It gives hope to the community,” said Jessica Moran, a cultural intermediary for the Hispanic community.

Being there for those in need, listening to them and walking with those in need is why Lwepaw Kacher serves as a cultural intermediary for the Karen community of which he is a part.

“You have someone who understands you. You have someone to speak for you. You have someone who will fight for you,” Kacher said.

“I want to serve my community. The community that needs help the most.”

Designed with community partners, the program receives endorsements from across Minnesota.

Fairview’s director of community health programs, Keith Allen, says the nonprofit “wanted to come to an understanding that health happens in the community where you live, work, play and worship.”

“At the Heart of Who We Are”

Leaders at Sanford Health and Fairview Health Services say community engagement will only increase when the two systems come together.

“It’s certainly not something we take lightly. This is not a place where health care is made money. It is not largely a refund-based activity. What we do is at the heart of who we are at Fairview Health Services,” said Hereford.

Gassen adds: “It goes beyond the walls of our clinics, beyond the walls of our hospitals and our long-term care facilities, and goes to the heart of our communities. Working with our schools, working with other non-profit organizations to make sure we remove all possible barriers between people and the essential care they need to be successful and thriving in their communities.”

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Posted in Bemidji, Community, Company News, Fargo, Here For Everyone. Here for Good., Incorporation in Sanford, Sioux Falls

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