Voices of Hennepin Healthcare: Joe Kreisman

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Joe Kreisman, the social impact manager for the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, recommends a healthcare model founded in hospitality that helps patients feel at home through a community of care.

“Having a central, compassionate healthcare system that anyone can go to is an essential backbone of a healthy downtown community,” asserts Joe Kreisman, the social impact manager for the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District. Joe works directly with those experiencing homelessness in downtown Minneapolis by facilitating community engagement and supporting programs.

As Hennepin Healthcare continues its innovative planning process to advance health equity, Joe dreams of a community healthcare model that encourages everyone to feel at home in downtown Minneapolis.

A Community of Care

“Community health is about people caring for each other,” Joe emphasizes. “We aren’t working from a place of scarcity; we’re not lacking for opportunities. We’re lacking in connections.”

He envisions a health system where anyone who enters with a need is met empathetically with the response, “We have a resource for that.”

To include those who are experiencing homelessness in a community of care, misconceptions must first be corrected. “The perception is that chemical use, physical health or mental health are the causes of homelessness. Instead, it’s trauma and the experience of homelessness — the stress of isolation or not knowing where your next meal or bed is going to come from — that are the causes of substance use, physical and mental health conditions.”

It takes time and resources to overcome the many barriers faced by people experiencing homelessness. A community of care understands the patience and empathy required to create the ideal circumstances to help individuals “get out, form a culture and connect to rebuild trust with the rest of the community.”

 Radical Hospitality

Within a healthcare setting, Joe envisions a place where everyone receives “radical hospitality regardless of where they’re coming from or where they’re going after care.” For those experiencing homelessness, this means keeping providers connected by offering regular wellness checks. During these consecutive visits, Joe sees opportunity for the care providers to “find out what each individual person wants and what they’re looking for next.” Providers can then suggest creative solutions to help the individual receive the resources they need.

One such resource, a storage facility, was created by Joe and his team to improve health outcomes of those who experience homelessness. “They are forced to carry their belongings,” Joe explains. “This causes back and foot pain, as well as worry that things will be stolen.” The storage program solves one small problem that Joe hopes will have a positive impact on their lives. Innovative solutions like these can be expanded by combining the resources of a number of organizations that call downtown Minneapolis home.

 Downtown as a Home for Everyone

“Hennepin Healthcare is a hub for services and an essential part of the community’s ecosystem,” Joe observes. “It has the ability to bundle a lot of resources in one place.”

This offers the hospital the opportunity to partner with other nonprofit organizations, public and private enterprises, and government agencies to provide additional services to community members so that everyone can feel at home in downtown Minneapolis.

Currently, the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District is finding success in a few pilot projects to serve people experiencing homelessness. A non-emergency dispatch center can be called to send a social worker to assist someone in need, or a van can arrive to take people to their medical appointments. However, there are still a number of areas that need improvement, particularly with housing accessibility.

“When someone leaves the hospital after medical care without a place to go, there’s a huge drop in success,” Joe explains. “There are too many people walking out of the hospital without a next step.” In this case, an option may be for Hennepin to partner with local organizations to create more safe and stable housing opportunities downtown. “Housing is a cheaper solution than continuing to enter the healthcare system repeatedly. Developing a healthcare system to help support housing is not only humane but also cost-effective.”

Joe remains confident that building bridges between organizations and connecting people to the right resources will ensure that “Hennepin Healthcare continues to be a beacon institution downtown — a reason why people come here, why people stay and a value for anyone who’s visiting.”

Learn more about the planning process and sign up for monthly updates from Jennifer DeCubellis, CEO.

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