A recent health fair on Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing residential campus in Magnuson Park had children and parents trickling in and out of the common area with I KNOW MY BODY stickers and goodie bags full of vitamins and hygiene products.
The fair attracted the elderly and young alike with 10- and 14-year-olds excitedly preparing brightly colored salad bowls out of chard, beets, carrots, and toasted chickpeas. The ingredients and food prep tools were provided by Solid Ground’s Community Food Education team, who talked to attendees about nutrition and healthy dietary options.
As the AmeriCorps youth educators walked attendees through the steps of using fresh vegetables to create easy food options, the enthusiasm that 4th graders so easily bring with them spread throughout the room.
At the same time, attendees milled around the rest of the room visiting the booths of specialized care and managed care organizations like Molina Healthcare, Community Health Plan of Washington, and the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic.
The fair was made up of community resources that Sand Point Housing Residential staff identified as present but inaccessible to residents. Sand Point Housing case managers and advocates spoke eagerly about the push to get residents connected with professionals who could provide them with options and educate them on health-related matters.
“We want to make sure that everyone is covered,” states Nigel Weiss, a Resident Advocate for Brettler Family Place residents. “There is a myriad of services that are set up to serve our residents here, so it makes sense to have them all in one place, so people are familiar with these providers. And when it comes to health educators, these are really the main ways that a lot of these people will have any contact with them. The goal is really to broaden people’s contact with all of these services.”
Solid Ground’s 2018 Community Needs Assessment identified affordable and accessible healthcare options as the number one concern among King County residents. Combining quantitative and qualitative data that spans regional research and local listening sessions, the report states:
“Many participants on low incomes expressed frustration over not finding many behavioral/mental health resources available to them. Respondents mentioned additional challenges in trying to navigate healthcare systems, such as feeling a sense that they needed to relive their personal trauma to receive services. Many people expressed a strong appreciation for Medicaid, and fear of what would happen without it. The rising cost of healthcare was a strong concern for many (CNA, pg. 16).”
Cate Daniels, Solid Ground’s Chief Program Officer (CPO), worked on the Community Needs Assessment development and is still actively collecting feedback from Sand Point Housing residents on their ability to access nutritious food, dietary information, and any other health resources they need. She says, “We see it every day where an ambulance is called, or somebody is in a health crisis, and that affects their stability. This is a lot of what our case management team addresses when someone is hospitalized, or someone is struggling to manage chronic health conditions. … What does that mean for stability in general and for their health and well-being more specifically?”
After looking at the individualized response to healthcare management for residents, residential programming staff and Solid Ground leadership are working to develop a more systemic counter to disjointed services – one that centers health equity.
The health fairs will continue with a summer fair taking place next. Additionally, a new health clinic will open later this year at Mercy Magnuson Place (a partner housing provider), with services informed by and accessible to Sand Point Housing residents. Outside of a dental clinic in Magnuson Park, “We don’t have any clinics within striking distance of our campus,” Nigel explains. The new clinic will expand the options Sand Point Housing residents have to choose from.
Nigel continues, “Folks can walk in and access [the clinic] through their Medicaid insurance – or if they don’t have insurance or are underinsured, they’ll be able to get set up right away and access subsidized care. They’re hoping to have staggered hours so there will be some time when people can actually come in and at least talk to them. … Even if they don’t have what they need on site, they can actually refer them to someone else.”
For Cate, this is an opportunity to bring community relationships and current programming into alignment with Solid Ground’s vision for healthy and stable communities. Identifying the work being done to address health concerns by Solid Ground programming and by others in the service area – and then merging them into a cohesive system for residents to utilize as fully and holistically as possible – is ultimately what success looks like for those tasked with addressing this gap.