People and Places – May 2018

Worcester honored for her work UCare Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Chief Marketing Officer Ghita Worcester was selected […]

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Worcester honored for her work

UCare Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Chief Marketing Officer Ghita Worcester was selected by the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST as a 2018 Courage Award winner. She was saluted for a career dedicated to opening doors to care for those who need it most.

The 2018 Courage Awards celebrate Minnesota women and companies in health care who have taken a risk and demonstrated courage in navigating the unknown to help the health care industry move boldly to transform its future. Worcester was nominated for working tirelessly to return UCare’s service to state public program members in the recent past. She and other 2018 Courage Award winners were recognized at the 2018 TRUST Forum networking reception and dinner hosted by the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST April 11, at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

“Ghita has helped lead UCare through a remarkable turnaround. Her commitment to UCare’s members never wavered, even when facing great challenges. She earned this award for her concerted efforts over an impressive career of ensuring access to community-based health care for Minnesotans of all ages and circumstances,” said UCare President and CEO Mark Traynor.

Worcester brings more than 35 years of health care management experience to her role at UCare. She provides strategic direction for marketing, provider relations and contracting, business development and strategy, public relations, legislative, regulatory, government programs and community outreach activities.

Worcester oversees the organization’s federal and state health care reform efforts and policy formulation related to national and state health policy issues. She is a champion of health equity and has been instrumental in the development and implementation of UCare’s strategic and operational plans.

Before joining UCare, Worcester served as Director of Policy and Operations for the University Affiliated Family Physicians (UAFP), the management company that started UCare in 1984.

Worcester has been honored in the past for her work. In 2015, she was recognized with a Women in Business Award by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and has served on several community boards and committees.


Exhibits provide past and present-day look at many aspects of life with mental illness

Historic artifacts and current patient artwork from the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter are featured in two unique public showings.

Two new exhibits provide a look back at 150 years of care and treatment at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter and offer a glimpse into the creative and artistic minds of women and men who are currently patients at the facility.

State of Mind | A History of Minnesota’s First State Hospital, which runs May 12 through Dec. 15 at the Treaty Site History Center, 1851 N. Minnesota Ave., St. Peter, features relics and photos from key periods in the hospital’s history, as well as storyboards, video and more. Selected from the hospital’s own extensive collection, the artifacts help tell the stories of patients, staff and how the treatment of mental illness has evolved in the 150 years since the facility was established.

“Its name and buildings have changed many times over the decades, but public curiosity about the Security Hospital has been constant,” said Minnesota Security Hospital Executive Director Carol Olson. “This is a rare opportunity to view artifacts not often seen by the general public and to experience the facility’s captivating history up-close.”

The history center is the home of Nicollet County Historical Society. Find directions and hours at

A separate exhibition, Changing Minds II: Work by Patients at the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center, will be on display May 4-27 at the Arts Center of St. Peter, 315 South Minnesota Ave. The show includes more than 150 original works of visual and literary art created over the past two years by artists working independently and those who participated in year-round art and writing classes facilitated by Arts Center staff.

“For many patients, art is an important part of their therapy,” Olson said. “It helps them express themselves, learn about themselves and to recognize and take pride in their talents and skills.” A reception with music by treatment center residents was held May 4.

Find directions and hours at



Variety of programs win first MOHR awards

The Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) has honored several groups with its inaugural MOHR Life Enrichment Awards. The awards cover a wide range of activities for people with disabilities. Fifteen organizations were chosen through a competitive process.

“Having a good life involves connecting with the people around us and being involved in our community and activities outside of work,” said Mike Burke, MOHR president. “Nonprofit service providers are innovators when it comes to enriching the lives of the individuals with disabilities and they deserve more credit for their work.”

Awards are being given across the state at program sites Burke said it’s important for service providers to honor the choices of people with disabilities, who often want to participate in meaningful activities and community routines along with their friends. Day programs help navigate community interactions for individuals and give them more options that they otherwise wouldn’t have. “It’s part of creating a holistic life pattern and having people become a part of many things outside of work.”

Minneapolis-based AccessAbility Evening Stars provides after-hours social opportunities for individuals with disabilities to enrich their lives. Highly accommodating, safe and inclusive, its dinner and movie nights, dances and games are growing more popular. Participation reached 975 people in 2017, a 20 percent increase over the previous year. Evening Stars registered 12 bocce ball athletes to compete as individuals and three unified doubles teams for Special Olympics competitions.

Chippewa Enterprises’ Worksite Wellness and Community Garden partnership in Montevideo began in 2016. Tapping the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, it is increasing healthy eating and healthy lifestyles for its staff and the individuals served. Raised planting beds were built and Montevideo High School got involved. The group faced many challenges, and learned about the best plants to grow together, germination, weather, construction
and basic garden needs.

For three years suburban Minneapolis CHOICE has utilized its innovative health and wellness program, SHAPE, to benefit the people it serves. Fitness and exercise, strength and balance, yoga, meditation, sensory integration and nutrition are offered to program participants. CHOICE staff recognized the many barriers to healthy lifestyles that people with disabilities encounter, including costs, supervision and support, lack of control over eating choices, and need for adaptive equipment.

In the rural community of Hoffman, Grant County DAC in 2015 created a tremendous community outreach and work vehicle centered on produce. DAC’s own greenhouse gives individuals with disabilities a source of pride, purpose and excitement to see plants grow from tiny seeds into healthy food and floral products. Participants are paid for their work are also able to meet and interact with greenhouse customers.

Merrick’s Ambassadors for Respect and Anti-Bullying Handbook began as an anti-bullying training for fourth-graders in 2013. It has grown to 89 presentations to 2,403 students and 138 teachers in 12 elementary schools and a statewide training handbook. The partnership with the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities teaches students about accepting differences and people first language. Participants share their own stories about being bullied, and lead interactive activities to promote acceptance.

Mankato-based MRCI provides performing arts opportunities for people with disabilities as part of a partnership with The Arc Southwest. The Innovators theater group involves individuals with disabilities, who choose a play and their roles. The cast rehearses with assistance from an MRCI volunteer. Participants discover previously untapped
talents, learn teamwork and how to take direction while gaining confidence to perform in front of others.

Midwest Special Services is a founding partner in the Show Gallery Lowertown, a nonprofit art space in St. Paul. MSS coordinates an annual exhibition, CoLab. The event highlights the work of artists with disabilities who are paired with professional artists. Art takes on many forms, from visual arts to poetry, photography, videography and flamenco dance. CoLab grew from 12 artist pairs in 2015, to 15 in 2016 and 22 in 2017.

Creating a forum for people with disabilities to stand up for themselves and to be heard, Twin Cities-based Opportunity Partners started the Committee of Advocacy & Leadership (COAL) in 2011. The purpose is to “ignite” in everyone the power of advocacy. COAL involves more than 50 members with disabilities across several Opportunity Partners campuses and programs. The program is led by participants.

Twin Cities-based Partnership Resources Inc. offers the PARTnerships visual arts program. Individuals with disabilities trained with professional artists to produce prints, calendars and cards. Card sales peaked at more than 100,000, with more than $250,000 in sales. Studio arts classes feature professional teaching artists. The program provides experiences for people with disabilities in the visual arts, music therapy, glass-making, clay and ceramics, the performing arts and more.

Polk County DAC in Crookston created a multi-sensory environment within its facility to relax or stimulate its participants based on a “sensory diet.” The space helps people to increase their attention span, keep their heads up and smile, sleep longer, eat faster and improve their muscle tone. People who have used the sensory room have enjoyed many benefits ranging from improved functionality to less agitation.

Rochester-based PossAbilities created Striving Toward Achievement, Recognizing Strengths (STARS). This led to more than 250 hours of volunteer service. Increased time in the community has opened people up to new experiences and adventures, and improved their communication and social skills. Participants made meals, shoveled out hydrants, rang bells for the Salvation Army, caroled around town and handed out goodie bags to kids at a medical center.

Participants at Rise tell stories and express their vision through works of art, in Art Speaks. More than 200 individuals take classes at the Hennepin and Anoka County Rise locations. Art can be abstract, as participants use microfiber dusters, rolling pins, yarn and foam pieces. The creations are on display at more than a handful of public venues, including government buildings, coffee houses and corporate offices.

Udac grows produce for donation for a Duluth food shelf in Duluth. People with disabilities helped build garden beds and created wheelchair access. They planted and tended vegetables and reaped the harvest. Gardening experts taught best practices. Healthy eating and the importance of supporting area farmers were discussed. Partner Essentia Health is exploring options for oncology patients to utilize the space for fresh air and meditation.

WACOSA, near St. Cloud, has a goal of providing experiences that help people with disabilities to discover the full measure of what makes life fulfilling and beautiful. Learning from an art therapist, multiple artists and other professionals, WACOSA participants gain knowledge and experience in a number of art mediums, including painting, drawing, ceramics, photography and music. Art shows to display and sell works are held.

West Central Industries in Willmar built a studio for artistic expression. Participants can learn the fundamentals of percussion, acoustic and bass guitar, ukulele, piano and vocal performance. Or they can choose to create artwork. A 16-member choir trained for months and has performed several times. Long-term care facilities and a hospital have become favorite venues. The program has had the added effect of opening up new volunteer opportunities.


Tanzanian disability rights activist is celebrated

The University of Minnesota has recognized one of its own. Hubert H. Humphrey International Fellow (1983-84) alumnus N’nyapule Madai, of Tanzania, was awarded the 2017 University of Minnesota Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals.

He was honored at an event in April which was part of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship celebration. Sandy Vargas, former president and CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation, and former director of African programs and International Director of Athlete Leadership Programs at Special Olympics, Kathryn Clark, were among those on hand to honor Madai.

During Madai’s visit to Minnesota, he also did community outreach with several organizations: Operation Bootstrap Africa, African Development Center, H20 for Life, ARC of Minnesota, Pacer Center, UMN College of Education and Human Development and Institute on Community Integration and Special Olympics Minnesota.

While at the Humphrey School, he was a social welfare officer in his homeland’s Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, where he was involved especially with the rehabilitation of people with disabilities. He was also the executive secretary of both the National Committee for the Disabled and the National Committee of the World Assembly on Aging. He was also involved in undertaking a survey of rehabilitation facilities in Tanzania.

Madai is currently officially retired but remains as an assistant commissioner for social welfare in Tanzania.


PrairieCare Child & Family Fund announces awards

The PrairieCare Child & Family Fund has awarded $100,000 in grant funding to five Minnesota school districts to support mental health education and training to those who support or provide educational services to youth. The PrairieCare Child & Family Fund began in March 2016.

Fund leaders received 39 proposals for funding totaling more than $1.2 million, and selected districts based upon the overall impact and sustainability of their proposed programs. Districts selected are Faribault Public Schools, Le Sueur-Henderson Public Schools, Paynesville Public Schools, Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools and Prodeo Academy.

The awards mark the second series of grant funding awarded by the PrairieCare Child & Family Fund. The amount awarded increased based upon the overall success of fundraising and the quality of the proposals received. The purpose of the non-profit 501(c) 3 is to support mental health innovations in education, services and research.

“We received so many great proposals throughout Minnesota, both metro and rural communities. We were inspired to increase funding to impact more students and families,” said Rhoda Michaelynn, the co-chair of the grants committee.

The goal is to help create sustainable education programs for district and program staff to better identify and work with students who may be struggling with poor mental health. Many of the proposals included regular staff education and seminars as well as curriculums that will be implemented into the daily educational routine for kids that promote resiliency and mental wellness.

“The five school districts receiving grants will be providing better mental health support to their students, staff and communities. We are proud to be their partners,” said board member Sandy Nicholson. The school districts selected provide board representation from many social, economic and cultural classes throughout the state of Minnesota.



United Family Medical, Mitchell Hamline Law are honored

Organizations and individuals working to address health issues in the community received the 2018 Ramsey County Public Health Award at a meeting of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners in April. The annual awards, sponsored by St. Paul – Ramsey County Public Health, recognize individuals and groups who have made exceptional contributions to improving health by advancing health equity in the county.

Shoreview resident Eugene Nichols was honored for his leadership in reducing youth access to tobacco products and his long-standing work promoting health, mental health and well-being. United Family Medicine and the Mitchell Hamline School of Law won an award for their partnership to help clinic patients address legal issues that affect health.

“Our 2018 award winners worked on a range of different issues, but all demonstrated a common understanding that partnership and collaboration are essential to advancing health equity,” said Ramsey County Board Chair Jim McDonough. “Many hands coming together is the best way to solve health challenges in our community.”

The award presentation coincided with National Public Health Week, April 2 -8. “Public Health is uniquely positioned to facilitate and encourage partnerships between people and organizations across the private and public sector to advance health equity” said Anne M. Barry, director of St. Paul – Ramsey County Public Health. “The awards we present during National Public Health Week underscore that it’s up to all of us to advance health and racial equity by addressing the social, environmental and behavioral factors that impact health.”

In 2015, United Family Medicine partnered with the Mitchell Hamline School of Law to launch a medical legal partnership at the health care provider’s primary healthcare clinics. The partnership enables Mitchell Hamline law students to provide legal assistance to patients under the supervision of a university staff attorney.

The Medical Legal Partnership team is on‐site three days a week, meeting with patients in a location they know and trust. The partnership has been successful in helping patients at the clinic address legal issues that affect their health and the health of their families. Over the course of the partnership, the students and managing attorney have met with more than 300 patients.

While some patients are referred to external sources, the partnership team takes on a variety of cases. Many patients have basic questions that can be addressed with education and do not require legal counsel. Major issues addressed include understanding short-term disability, the Family and Medical Leave Act, employment discrimination and employee rights, immigrant laws and rights, landlord tenant laws, and the basics of Social Security.

There are 14 medical legal partnerships in Minnesota. The honored collaboration is the only one at a community health center in Ramsey County.

“A regimen of medications may hold a patient’s asthma at bay, but her condition cannot be cured until the mold and vermin droppings in her apartment are addressed. Her living conditions will continue to impact her health without remediation by the landlord and the issues likely affect the entire building, not just a single unit,” said Ana Pottratz Acosta, supervising attorney and clinical instructor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. “These are symptoms of substandard housing, and the condition may have a legal solution: an order to make the landlord comply with contractual, statutory, or other requirements. It may be unlikely that she would have access to the guidance needed to bring legal action.”

Nichols is a longtime community leader and volunteer who has generously donated his time and talents to improving health and advancing health equity in Ramsey County. A retired 3M Health Care Division manager, Nichols currently serves as Board Chair at Open Cities Health Center, chairs the African American Leadership Forum-Health and Wellness Group and serves on Shoreview’s Human Rights Commission. He is also a member of St. Paul – Ramsey County Public Health’s Community Health Services Advisory Committee, and chairs the Mental Health and Well-being Action Team.

Nichols was nominated for his tireless efforts to engage the community, raise awareness and ensure citizen’s voices are heard on a range of issues from healthy eating, active living and tobacco use, to nurse home visiting, mental health and well-being. Nichols is credited with a great ability to facilitate dynamic community dialogue and skill in guiding collaborative partnerships to stay focused to achieve their goals.







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