People & Places - February 2013

UCare Grants are awarded

UCare, an independent, nonprofit health plan providing health care and administrative services to nearly 300,000 members, has announced the award of numerous grants that will help programs serving people with disabilities and senior citizens.

In 2012, UCare distributed 31 community grants totaling $1,065,944 and three research grants totaling $197,592 to Minnesota organizations working to improve the health of people of all ages, ethnicities, and abilities.

Courage Center, Golden Valley, will use a $55,000 grant to support evaluation of the effectiveness of the Chronic Disease Self Management Program as a strategy to improve adherence to care, patient outcomes, and quality of life that physicians can incorporate into their primary care practices.

Dakota Communities, Eagan, will use a $42,940 grant to help support the “Be Connected. Be Well” health and wellness initiative for persons with disabilities. It works to improve health outcomes, quality of life, and reduce health care costs through good nutrition, physical exercise, stress management, and social connections.

Fraser, Minneapolis will use a $26,982 grant to support a wide range of education, health care, and housing services for people with developmental disabilities, mental health disorders, and other special needs and their families.

Lifetrack Resources, St. Paul, will use a $25,000 grant to expand the Minnesota Hands & Voices program serving families with young children/infants newly diagnosed with a hearing loss. This will provide for home visits by Parent Guides families and help with vital decisions for children and families.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Minnesota Chapter, Minneapolis will use a $15,000 grant to support the “Stay Active, Stay Healthy with MS Program” providing initial and ongoing training for instructors about MS and how to create classes for people with MS. There are currently 35 physical activity classes for people with MS in 25 Minnesota communities.

Opportunity Partners, Minnetonka will use a $10,000 grant to help support the establishment of “Health Opportunities.” The program teaches individuals with disabilities about nutrition, shopping, cooking, exercise, reproductive health, and making healthy choices for optimum health.

Special Olympics Minnesota will use $10,000 grant toward efforts to increase the scope of and participation in the Healthy Athletes® initiative. A wide variety of free medical and educational health screenings will be offered in Minnesota throughout the year.

Other groups that serve people with disabilities also obtained grants. Fairview Foundation, Minneapolis will use a $50,000 grant to help support Health Commons, a nursing center in the Riverside Plaza created with the Augsburg College Department of Nursing and the East African Health Project. One of the goals for this funding is to reduce health disparities for people with disabilities.

Hennepin County will use a $50,000 grant to help  support care coordination services that connect the Mental Health Center’s Hennepin Health clients with primary care health care home services. Funding also allows for a half-time person to monitor the other chronic conditions of Hennepin Health mental health clients and coordinate their care with NorthPoint or Hennepin County Medical Center primary care clinics.

Neighborhood HealthSource, Minneapolis will use a $50,000 grant for outreach to Hennepin and Anoka counties to educate and help community members access care and establish a medical home. NHS will develop tools and systems to better manage patients via electronic medical records and implement six domains of a patient-centered medical home.

The University of Minnesota, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Minneapolis will use a $74,991 grant to help support the “Living Life to the Full: Researching the Impact and Implementation of Computerized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression” study. This evidence-based, computerized, and cognitive behavioral therapy treatment for depression is conducted with the Fairview Riverside Primary Care Clinic and the Fairview Outpatient Counseling Clinic.

Two St. Paul programs that benefit senior citizens received grants. The Keystone Community Services and Como Park/Falcon Heights Living at Home/Block Nurse programs receive a $25,000 grant to help support the “Senior Exercise for Health, Longevity and Happiness Project.” This project helps older adults make holistic lifestyle and behavior changes around exercise, nutrition, and social connection to maintain and increase their health and well-being and reduce the possibility of obesity.

The St. Paul Como Park/Falcon Heights Living at Home Block Nurse Program, will receive a $10,000 grant to support to expand its Healthy Moves Program. The program offers help with falls prevention, support, resources, and home and safety checks and follow-through to improve the well-being of frail, low-income seniors.



Knights to lead service group

Christian Knights, public affairs associate at Courage Center and volunteer committee co-chairman for the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities(MN-CCD), has taken a new position as Director of Government Relations for Aging Services of Minnesota. He will be representing nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state. His last day at Courage Center was Jan. 25.

Knights had worked at Courage Center for almost seven years. He was active in a number of areas including voter outreach, advocacy and public policy. He recalled that favorite activities over that time have included the unique Rides to the Polls program operated for three election cycles, the many candidate forums across the state, and his first-ever event at Courage Center- Smackdown the Vote with WWE wrestler Ken Kennedy. “And yes I was as worried as the event title’s name suggests I should have been,” he said.

Knights said he will miss his many amazing colleagues and working together on public policy goals. He has been proud to be a part of MN-CCD’s growth to an organization of almost 100 groups.

In a farewell note to friends and colleagues, Knight said, “There is as we know a huge overlap between disability and aging. My hope is that this new role will help facilitate far more collaboration between the two in the future as we both move forward.”



New year, new name for Twin Cities law firm

A Minnesota law firm with 40 years of experience has changed its name to O’Meara, Leer, Wagner & Kohl to reflect the people now upholding its stellar reputation. The firm formerly known as Johnson & Condon has served a diverse group of clients from multinational companies to emerging businesses and insurance companies. It has also been a leader in disability law.

Led by Shamus P. O’Meara, Timothy J. Leer, Mark A. Wagner and Mary E. Kohl, the firm aims to build upon four decades of success. The firm’s shareholders also include Dale O.Thornsjo, B. Jon Lilleberg, Paul S. Hopewell, Jeremy D. Rosenberg, Kristen Anderson Ryan and managing partner Christopher E. Celichowski.

The firm’s name change evolves from the 2012 passing of co-founder Jon Johnson. “We are forever mindful of Jon’s legacy and the contributions of many others who have been part of our successful history,” said Celichowski. “Although our name is changing, we remain the same firm with a long-standing reputation of developing extraordinary client relationships, delivering reliable legal services and producing superlative results.”

“We look forward to continuing our leadership and involvement in programs that benefit and promote opportunities for people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence and those who simply need a helping hand,” said Kohl.



Merrick goes green with packaging

Merrick, Inc., a Vadnais Heights-based nonprofit with the mission to empower adults with disabilities is pleased to be part of Fairview Pharmacy Services effort in introducing “green” packaging into the delivery of temperature-sensitive medications.

Merrick clients already work on a recycling crew at Fairview’s Riverside location. Fairview sought out Merrick to assist with the assembly of the biodegradable coolers. Knowing that clients at Merrick are dependable, committed to doing an excellent job, and seeking meaningful work, the partnership was a natural fit.

“This partnership really highlights our core belief of civic responsibility,” said Merrick, Inc.’s Work Procurement and Contract Manager John Crea. “On top of providing meaningful work to a crew of clients, the project supports creating a cleaner environment which we believe in as well. Our own green initiatives include one of the largest solar panel arrays in the state, a geothermal heating and cooling system in our main building in Vadnais Heights, and a plastic recycling program that prevented over 800,000 pounds of plastic from reaching landfills in 2012.”

Fairview officials hope the project will serve as a model for other organizations seeking environmentally friendly ways to ship temperature-sensitive materials. As one of the nation’s largest health system-based pharmacy organizations, Fairview switched to the new non-toxic coolers in early 2013 and estimates the new packaging will annually stop 44,000 polystyrene (more commonly known as Styrofoam) coolers from going into landfills.

StarchTech Inc., an eco-friendly packaging company based in Golden Valley supplies the Green Cell Foam™ that makes the cooling elements of the packaging from non-toxic and renewable cornstarch material that is easily compostable or recyclable.



Mayer is new compliance specialist

Abby Mayer recently became the Corporate Compliance Specialist at Fraser, a Minnesota nonprofit serving children and adults with special needs. Mayer will be focusing on policy development, and providing support on contracts, audit standards, and compliance. She will also be providing legal insight on employee relations issues and benefits compliance due to health care reform.

Mayer was previously employed at Disability Rights Wisconsin as an attorney on their Benefits Team. While there she represented individuals with disabilities in appeals for federal and state public benefits and community services. She has also served as a volunteer mediator for Community Mediation Services in Hopkins.

Mayer received her J.D. from William Mitchell College of Law and her undergraduate degree in English literature from Concordia in Moorhead.

Fraser is Minnesota’s largest and most experienced provider of autism services. Fraser also serves children and adults with more than 60 types of mental and physical disabilities.