Health & Medicine

Dignity Health will donate $1 million-plus to Sacramento-area nonprofits in 2019

See Mercy nurses provide care at winter homeless shelter

Health-care workers at Mercy San Juan Medical Center volunteer at winter sanctuaries for the homeless, providing minor health checks and screenings for the folks who come in off the street.
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Health-care workers at Mercy San Juan Medical Center volunteer at winter sanctuaries for the homeless, providing minor health checks and screenings for the folks who come in off the street.

Dignity Health announced Thursday it is distributing $1.05 million this year to dozens of community-based organizations in Nevada, Sacramento and Yolo counties to help meet community health needs outside its hospital walls.

The grants are going toward assisting the most vulnerable residents of the region: at-risk children, survivors of human and labor trafficking, individuals living with mental illness and dementia, the homeless and ethnic groups with high rates of chronic disease.

“At Dignity Health, we ... understand that doesn’t start in our hospitals,” said Liza Kirkland, manager of community health and outreach at Dignity. “It starts out in our communities. Our role at Dignity Health is really to take health care outside hospital walls to create and build healthier communities from the ground up.”

In total, Dignity will fund 14 projects, but it considers only grant proposals that come from at least three collaborating organizations. In Nevada County, a substance abuse treatment provider known as Community Recovery Resources is partnering with the Grass Valley Police Department and Hospitality House homeless shelter to connect residents experiencing homelessness with substance abuse treatment, housing and health care.

Ariel King Lovett, deputy chief executive officer of Community Recovery Resources, said Dignity’s funding and forward-thinking Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard were the linchpins in ensuring her organization could launch this program last year.

When encountering people with substance abuse in their public safety work, Lovett said, police officers identify them, screen them and, when appropriate, connect them with the health care services that Community Recovery Resources offers.

“When people are met with that immediacy, we’ve had very good outcomes with treatment completion, higher than the national average, even in this population that is a really high-need population,” Lovett said. “We don’t look at treatment completion as the only outcome. We are really working toward having people housed, employed and stabilized as productive citizens in the community.”

The hospital provider awarded grants of $92,958 to this Nevada County effort, $104,000 to two projects in Yolo County and $851,214 to a dozen community projects in Sacramento County. It does not share how much it gave toward each proposal.

Other grant recipients include:

Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, La Familia Counseling Center, Sacramento Native American Health Center and International Rescue Committee. Their work includes educating the Latino community on their health rights, offering culturally competent mental health services and assisting victims of human trafficking.

Food Literacy Center, Soil Born Farms and Health Education Council. Their project works to improve student health by sharing information on cooking and nutrition, giving students the opportunity to taste fresh vegetables and providing courses on gardening to students and their caregivers.

Always Knocking, Hooked on Fishing, and Bike Lab. Their goals include teaching youth how to cope with trauma and taking them on trips to get away from violence they may witness or experience in their area.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Sacramento Area, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento, Sacramento Police Foundation. They are partnering up to provide at-risk youth with volunteer mentors from law enforcement.

Yolo Hospice, CommuniCare and Fourth & Hope. They offer medical treatment, social services, spiritual counseling and medical-related transportation to individuals with life-threatening illnesses.

Yolo Community Care Continuum, Suicide Prevention of Yolo County, Davis Community Meals and Housing. They’re collaborating to improve the odds of stability for clients who are experiencing psychiatric illness and have limited or no support.

In the Sacramento region, a half-dozen Dignity hospitals contribute to the grants program. They are Mercy General Hospital, Mercy Hospital of Folsom, Mercy San Juan Medical Center, Methodist Hospital of Sacramento, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Woodland Memorial Hospital. Dignity Health is a unit of Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health, formed Jan. 31 when Dignity Health completed its merger with Catholic Health Initiatives.

Kirkland said Dignity does a needs assessment every three years in each county to determine priorities for giving, and it is working with a consultant now to do the latest assessment. They will interview nonprofit workers individually and in focus groups. Kirkland said she works hand-in-hand with nonprofits receiving the grants to ensure they are meeting the metrics set for success.

“If we are able to empower and educate our community and help our community at the front end, they will not be affected by some of the ailments downstream,” Kirkland said. “We’re really trying to take a more upstream approach to health and a more holistic approach to health.”

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Cathie Anderson covers health care for The Bee. Growing up, her blue-collar parents paid out of pocket for care. She joined The Bee in 2002, with roles including business columnist and features editor. She previously worked at papers including the Dallas Morning News, Detroit News and Austin American-Statesman.
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