The Minnesota Department of Human Services is honoring the dedication and innovative work of 10 partners that support Minnesotans to achieve their highest potential, with the annual Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Awards.
The awards are given to nonprofits that provide essential services to people with disabilities, refugees, Indigenous youth and elders, families with children, people who have public health insurance and people who are starting their recovery journeys. Innovations include offering Indigenous food options and caring for pets so their owners can enter substance use disorder treatment.
Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead began presenting the awards in mid-October.
“Each year, we lift up partners who are making real progress toward an equitable Minnesota where all people can achieve their highest potential,” Harpstead said. “We are so proud of all the ways this year’s award winners are applying community knowledge and innovative ideas to solve persistent problems. Their work has a remarkable impact on our state.”
DHS started the awards program in 2012. Three 2023 winners have a focus on people with disabilities. They are:
Apple Tree Dental, Mounds View, is a nonprofit critical access dental organization that has nine Centers for Dental Health and mobile programs that deliver year-round, on-site care in collaboration with about 150 organizations. Clients range from Head Start programs and schools to group homes and long-term care facilities. Founded in 1985, Apple Tree serves patients of all ages and abilities, providing a full range of special care services for children and adults. More than 84 percent of Apple Tree’s patients are enrolled in Minnesota’s public health care programs. In 2022, Apple Tree provided 92,765 visits and screenings and delivered services valued at over $36 million.
Behavioral Dimensions Inc., St. Louis Park; and Dakota County Children’s Mental Health, Apple Valley provides a critical care unit for behavioral supports programming. The intensive in-home behavior intervention program serves children and adolescents with complex mental and behavioral health needs who are at risk of being placed outside their home (for example, in foster care or long-term hospitalization). A team of mental health professionals and behavior analysts works alongside youth, their family and affected community members to stabilize continuous crisis events. The team provides intensive services in collaboration with Children’s Mental Health services in Dakota County. They also provide behavior consultation services to a wider range of people in Dakota County and several counties in central and southern Minnesota.
Pink Cloud Foundation, Minneapolis, partners with more than 50 treatment centers, six state correctional facilities and nearly 100 recovery homes. The foundation has become widely recognized as a top recovery resource in Minnesota for people in early recovery and their care providers. It provides sober housing assistance, support services and critical resources to people seeking long-term recovery from substance use disorder. In four years, the organization has helped place almost 700 people into sober housing, launched innovative programming to offer pet fostering services to pet owners who need substance use disorder treatment, and increased awareness of substance use disorder through community outreach during the opioid crisis.
Other winners are Afghan Legal Clinic (the Advocates for Human Rights and Volunteer Lawyers Network), Minneapolis; Lower Sioux Indian Community, Morton; MIGIZI, Minneapolis; and Tri-City Connections (Austin Aspires and Growing Up Healthy), Austin, Faribault and Northfield