People and Places – April 2021

Interpreter is honored Nic Zapko, who has serves as an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter during Gov. Tim Walz’s regular […]

Nic Zapko

Interpreter is honored

Nic Zapko
Nic Zapko

Nic Zapko, who has serves as an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter during Gov. Tim Walz’s regular press conferences during the COVID-19 pandemic, was honored in March. the governor declared March 9 as “Nic Zapko Day” in Minnesota.

Walz wished to recognize her service to Minnesota during the COVID-19 pandemic. In her role as interpreter for near-daily press conferences, Zapko has gained local and national fame for her fast, animated, and accurate delivery of critical information.

“Over the past year, Nic Zapko has provided critical ASL translation to update Minnesotans on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Walz. “Nic’s translations have ensured that the thousands of Minnesotans who identify as deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing receive real-time information about health and safety. Nic celebrates her birthday on March 9, and the State of Minnesota wishes her a very happy birthday and thanks her for her service.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented need for Minnesotans to receive clear, timely, and accurate public health information. 20% of Minnesotans identify as deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing, and this proclamation recognizes the significance of Zapko’s role in providing critical ASL translation.

Hooey is new DRCC head

Michelle Hooey is the new executive director of the Duluth Regional Care Center (DRCC). Her promotion to the top role was announced by the nonprofit’s board of directors.

Board President Kirk Wimmer said that the board is grateful to have Hooey serving as executive director. “Michelle brings a strong knowledge base as well as excellent leadership skills and working relationships with our community partners and those we support,” said Wimmer.

Hooey has been with DRCC since 1981. She is a Duluth native, and a graduate of the College of St. Scholastica.

The DRCC is 55 years old this year. In 1966, a group of concerned parents and professionals organized DRCC as a private non-profit corporation to meet the residential needs of teenagers and adults who were developmentally disabled. Few programs of its kind existed in the area and it took time for the founders to garner support. The first board worked St. Louis County Social Services, ARC Duluth, the Ordean Foundation, the Junior League of Duluth, and the Rotary Club to develop Baldwin House. The first clients entered the program in 1971.

DRCC serves more than 400  people with developmental disabilities throughout northeastern Minnesota. Individuals live in their own homes and apartments, with their families, or in small group homes. DRCC provides staff to support individuals in pursuing the goals and dreams they have for themselves.

Fraser opens new facility

In Minnesota, one in 44 children is diagnosed with autism. To serve this growing need, Fraser in March opened a new “Autism Center of Excellence” satellite location in Maple Grove. It will serve 24 children and their families.

The location provides individualized, intensive autism services for autism spectrum disorders in children, ages 18 months to 7 years. Children served at the satellite location will also have access to onsite speech and occupational therapy, as well as the complete continuum of services offered at Fraser full-service clinics.

“At Fraser, we don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Rachel Gardner, director of Fraser Autism Center of Excellence. “Our services are individualized to each child, family and person. We work with families to determine what success looks like. And then we help individuals work toward those goals.”

The satellite locations supplement Fraser’s full-service clinics and increase convenience and access to intensive autism services for the Twin Cities’ community. There are plans to open more locations throughout the metro by the end of 2021.

Governor announces appointments

Gov. Tim Walz has announced appointments to state boards, commission and committees.

Four people were appointed to the Minnesota Council on Disability. Trent Dilks of Kimball, Hope Johnson of Waseca and David Johnson of Bemidji were reappointed to the council. Dawn Bly of Fosston is a new appointee, replacing Randy Sorenson.

The Council on Disability advises and aids the governor, state agencies, and the public on policy and the administration of programs and services for people with disabilities in Minnesota. The council advises, provides technical assistance, collaborates with others and advocates to expand opportunities, improve the quality of life, and empower all people with disabilities.

Two appointments were announced to the Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy. Dean Gilbertson of Mankato is the licensed alcohol and drug counselor member, replacing Judy Gordon.

Amy Dols of Minneapolis is a licensed professional clinical counselor member. Dols was reappointed. The Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy regulates the practices of alcohol and drug counseling, professional counseling, and professional clinical counseling in the State of Minnesota. The board carries out its mission through effective licensure and enforcement of statutes and rules that ensure a standard

  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself & others from the COVID-19 virus."
  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself, & others from the COVID-19 virus."

Mental Wellness