Native American community advocates meet people where they are

Sanford Health is working to address health disparities for Native American populations in Minnesota, and people like Rebekah Fineday are helping to make it happen.

Fineday is an enrolled member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and serves as the Native American Community Advocate for Sanford Health in Bemidji, Minnesota. In that role, Finday is helping Sanford develop and deliver culturally appropriate services to Native American patients.

Sanford Native American community advocacy efforts also include Tabitha Chilton, a White Earth Nation citizen who works on behalf of cancer patients at the Sanford Jo Luken Cancer Center in Bemidji.

Improving health care access: Native American Community Outreach at Sanford Health

“Sanford has made it a documented priority to improve the meaningful delivery of services to Native American populations,” Fineday said. “I’m glad we can go out into our communities and share the things Sanford is doing.”

Findey seeks community resources for Native Americans in Bemidji and within his Leach Lake Band of White Earth Nation, Red Lake Nation and Ojibwe.

navigating health care systems

Findey said navigating the different health systems in the Bemidji area can be challenging. Indian Health Services are government-run organizations located on reservations and established as part of treaties between the US government and tribes. There are also health care facilities owned and operated by the tribes themselves.

“I meet with tribal leadership on all three reservations and tell them about Sanford’s role in the area,” Fineday said. “I try to build these relationships and in some cases mend some of these relationships by letting people know how Sanford can help. Because I’m a Native American, sometimes I can open a few more doors and offer more opportunities on the reservation and in the communities themselves.

Finday, who took her position at Sanford in May, is an Air Force veteran who became a registered nurse and has since worked in several capacities for both the Cass Lake and Red Lake Indian Health Services.

Her role within the military and health care has always been one of leadership. Using her background in nursing to provide expertise, she will often help the facilities she visits by working in a case management role or as a patient advocate. In those capacities she gets an up-close view of the contributions colleagues are making to the overall delivery of health care.

“The case management team here in Bemidji is absolutely extraordinary in what they can accomplish,” Findey said. “They do so much in such little time. They work tirelessly and go above and beyond for all of our patients.

welcome everyone

Sanford Health’s commitment to Native American populations received a recent boost when its efforts in substance use disorder services were certified in a program called WellBritty. As such, Sanford was added as Program in the country to obtain approval from an organization that promotes a culturally based approach to combating substance abuse.

Mindy Byrd, a licensed addiction counselor in Sanford, northern Minnesota, was instrumental in bringing about certification from Wellbrity. Byrd is a member of the Blackfeet Nation, based in Montana, but has lived most of his life in Bemidji. Like Fineday, her Native American background, combined with her training, make her a valuable asset as Sanford continues to strive to provide quality care in the Bemidji area.

“Wellbrity is a program that is for Natives, for Natives in recovery,” Bird said. “It’s a community approach to recovery like AA, but it’s Native American-specific. It’s a big deal for Sanford because we’re one of the very first agencies to integrate caregiving within behavioral health programs that integrate Native American recovery. may look like.

Earning the certification is a success story that reflects positively on the efforts of Bird and its partners to complete the process. The benefits of that recognition can be felt across the region.

“It says a lot not only for Mindy Byrd for all her effort and knowledge, but also for Sanford to come out and support its culturally appropriate programs,” Fineday said. “Sanford has been supportive of her and her department in achieving accreditation because they realize how important it is to have culturally appropriate programming for patients.”

providing culturally appropriate care

What does it mean to provide culturally appropriate health care? Finday offered an example:

“One of the greatest things Sanford has ever provided is the ability to meet some of our cultural and spiritual needs through what we call ‘smudging,'” Findey said. “Smudging involves burning certain herbs. It is not an open flame but it is burnt and smoke is the end result of that. The point is to keep the flame going as you smudge and cover yourself with smoke from head to toe.

With the consultation of Native American spiritual leaders and the will of Sanford, they have found ways to remove some of the obstacles that would stand in the way of providing this spiritual opportunity.

“For a long time, facilities were not allowed to do this,” Finday said. “They have now taken appropriate fire safety precautions taking into account the patient’s surroundings.”

Sanford now offers Smudge Kits that include all the appropriate items needed for smudging with fire precautions in mind. In keeping with patients’ rights and hospital regulations, the Smudge Kit includes the use of a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, smoke detector cones that prevent alarms from going off during ceremonies, and clinical staff Gives instructions for safe operation in the presence of oxygen delivery. Device.

training health care providers

Finday said that educating and training providers on Native American culture is an important part of this effort. To that end, Sanford has created committees that figure out ways to address the disparities.

“We ask ourselves: What are some things we can look at to be more culturally sensitive, to be more culturally aware and to make patients aware that we are really here to help?” Finde said. “It may not be health care specific but it is specific to their healing process.”

related: Sanford Health supports, celebrates Native American cultures

In his role alongside Sanford, Findey taps into a vision held by his father, who was a pastor at the Leach Lake Reservation. You have to take your message to the people, he told her. Meet them where they are.

“We traveled a lot around the reservation meeting with people,” she said. “That’s what I’ve taken with me all these years. We have to go to the public. It shouldn’t be an email that says, ‘Hey, come and meet me in my conference room.’ It has to be ‘Hey, I want to meet you and talk to you. where would you like to meet?'”

Developing a level of familiarity and comfort has become a very important part of the job. This has become an easy process, Findey said, thanks to the spirited dedication of his predecessors.

“I want to recognize and thank the past Native American patient advocates that Sanford has hired over the years, including Joseph Boudreau (currently a peer recovery specialist for Sanford Behavioral Health),” she said. “Although my current role is a bit different than previous patient advocate roles, those helped pave the way for me to establish my current role. They laid the foundation and the relationship between the community and Sanford, and some events that Sanford continues to do today. I am grateful that Sanford has taken on these roles over the years to assist Native American patients, and recognizes the continued need for and importance of such roles.

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Posted in Bemidji, Community, for everyone here. Here for Good., Inclusion, People and Culture at Sanford

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