Phillips Neighborhood nonprofits working together for quality health care

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On Franklin Avenue in the Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis, a strip mall features a coffee shop, a drug store, a grocery store, and a small clinic. This is no ordinary shopping center, though. Look closely and you will notice the awnings resemble stretched hides, the interior of the coffee shop looks like an adobe house and, of course, you cannot miss the large tepee in the parking lot. This neighborhood features the largest concentration of Native Americans in Minneapolis and that small clinic is there to help them.

In 2002, area doctors Carol Krush, Lori Banaszak, and Lydia Caros decided the community needed more health care options for Native Americans. They were familiar with the area and knew the needs of not only the Native residents, but the community in general. Thus began the Native American Community Clinic (NACC).

To get the clinic started, Dr. Caros knew it would take knowledge she did not possess. “Of the three of us, I was the most ‘administrative’, but I’m not a finance person.” Dr. Caros knew the help she needed could be found at Nonprofits Assistance Fund (NAF), another Phillips Neighborhood business located in the Green Institute Phillips Eco-Enterprise Center. NAF is a nonprofit organization that provides loans, financial management assistance, and workshops for other nonprofit organizations.

Kate Barr, NAF executive director, began working with NACC before the first patient ever nervously sat in the waiting room. She and Dr. Caros discussed the start-up, identifying net assets, financial reporting, fundraising, billing, cash flow, and even how to survive the auditing process. Dr. Caros also attended the financial management workshops offered by Nonprofits Assistance Fund. A year later, the Native American Community Clinic (NACC) opened its doors in a renovated Dollar Store.

“Kate was instrumental to the growth of this clinic,” states Dr. Caros. “She provided so much support and really showed us the right paths to take.”

Dr. Caros and Ms. Barr continue to meet and develop financial tools and procedures as NACC grows. Today the clinic sees over 85 percent of its clients from the Native American community. The staff provides general health care and specialized care for prenatal alcohol screening and diabetes. The infant mortality rate is three times higher in the Native American community than the white community and the diabetes rate is 5.6 times higher.

NACC continues to grow and plans to offer expanded services in the future. Their current location has reached maximum capacity. They have already taken over a neighboring beauty salon for more administrative space and had to renovate one employee bathroom into another workspace. Dr. Caros is exploring the possibility of a separate diabetes clinic nearby as well as offering a mental health clinic. She would also like to work more closely with the area tribes and encourage more Native Americans to enter the health care field.

Drs. Caros, Krush, and Banaszak understand the health needs of Native Americans and Nonprofits Assistance Fund understands how to help nonprofits thrive. Their combined knowledge and partnership means quality health care for the Phillips Neighborhood and for all Minneapolis and St. Paul Native Americans.

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