Minnesota Hospital Association


May 26, 2021

Adapting to meet community needs during an unprecedented time

This story is featured in MHA's community benefit report.

In a year that was anything but normal, M Health Fairview swiftly adapted to meet the emerging needs of its community due to COVID-19 and civil unrest. The health system hosted free, low-barrier, outdoor COVID-19 testing events and flu vaccination clinics, provided meals and economic resources, connected with those who were isolated and offered virtual visits to continue essential services.

“At M Health Fairview, we are committed to our partnerships with the diverse, multicultural communities that make this region great,” said Fairview Health Services President and CEO James Hereford.

Since 2006, M Health Fairview has hosted Minnesota Immunization Networking Initiative (MINI) clinics. The free influenza vaccine clinics are often held in nontraditional settings such as churches at off-hour times when families are more likely to be able to attend. In 2019, the program hosted 125 pop-up clinics in 21 cities and provided more than 6,700 vaccinations. Due to the pandemic, M Health Fairview’s teams and partners got creative in how to provide the vaccinations this flu season, moving clinics outside or to larger spaces to allow for social distancing. It was essential for the health system to continue to provide this service to communities that have traditionally faced many barriers to primary care.

“We are concerned about influenza and COVID-19 circulating at the same time, which could be overwhelming to our health care system,” said Ingrid Johansen, M Health Fairview manager of clinical care and outreach for community advancement. “Getting sick with both could be disastrous for individuals.”

Using MINI clinics as a model, M Health Fairview was able to quickly stand up 48 community COVID-19 testing events in Ramsey County, providing 19,377 free tests. The walk-up or drive-through events, a collaboration with local public health departments and community partners, were offered at churches, homeless shelters, in large public areas, the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and at the Mexican Consulate. The events were designed to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on minority communities, which face significant language, cultural and economic barriers to health care access.

In the heart of Minneapolis, the M Health Fairview Health Commons – Cedar Riverside has provided free, culturally sensitive health care for underserved groups since 2014. Despite the pandemic, M Health Fairview moved forward with expansion plans to improve health care access. The drop-in health and wellness center provides free health care services to the diverse and underserved Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

Many of the programs at the Health Commons shifted to virtual-only services to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but with the new, larger space open, M Health Fairview was able to return to in-person services. In addition, work is underway to develop new spaces for gathering and social distancing, create a community nurse program, expand virtual services and add new mental health and addiction programming. In 2019, the health system hosted 6,512 visits by community members to its Health Commons drop-in center in Cedar-Riverside and at a similar site in North Minneapolis. The sites primarily serve East African and African American community members, including the Somali community in the Twin Cities.

M Health Fairview continues to strengthen its partnerships with the community by building trust, listening carefully and responding to existing needs and opportunities.