People’s Center’s Substance Abuse Program Manager Will Meet You Where You’re At

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When Taneasha Muonio joined People’s Center Clinics & Services as its Substance Abuse Program Manager in May 2018, she came with a wealth of practical knowledge and experience. Just a few weeks before being hired, she completed an internship at People’s Center in case management and earned a bachelor’s degree from Augsburg University with a double major in biology and psychology. However, her passion for equity, empathy and patient care have been with her for years.

In her new role, Taneasha works with about 150 patients dealing with substance abuse. She closely coordinates her work with doctors in order to integrate patients’ medical and behavioral health care. Her professional philosophy echoes People’s Center’s: Meet people where they are at. “I want people to know that my actions line up with my words,” she adds.

As Taneasha explains, “Obviously we want our patients to all stop using opioids and other substances, but I strive to take a realistic approach in terms of harm reduction.” This often means being creative in recommending solutions. She connects patients with alternative treatment options such as yoga, meditation, and therapeutic conversations.

Taneasha’s understanding of People’s Center patients doesn’t just come from her professional experience. As she observes, “I grew up low income, on Section 8 housing, on food stamps. I’ve lived the life many of our patients are living. That helps me find common ground. Also, I had to work the system myself, so I know how hard that can be.”

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Although Taneasha’s passion, drive, and go-getter mentality have long been present, these traits were cultivated during her time at Augsburg University, where she earned her degrees. Taneasha feels that Augsburg’s community-oriented mission is what attracted her to the institution and inspired her to deeply engage with her community when she applied to intern at People’s Center. “I’ve always been extremely passionate about community and community health. I took what lead me to Augsburg, and I brought that with me to this experience.”

In Taneasha, seriousness, purpose, and enthusiasm all come together. “People’s Center is different,” she emphasizes. “We function by prioritizing the patient. Whatever you’re dealing with, when you’re ready, the support is here and the people are here for you.”

Deb Olson, PNP, named Minnesota's Pediatric Nurse Practitioner of the Year


At its annual conference on April 30, 2018, the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) named People’s Center’s very own Deb Olson, PNP as Minnesota’s Pediatric Nurse Practitioner of the Year.

Olson has been a constant at People’s Center throughout 12 years of the organization’s change and development. When she started back in 2006, there were only four staff, and her desk was nothing more than a slab of wood attached to two stands.

“When I think about when I started,” Olson remarks, “we’ve made an incredible amount of progress.”

Olson began her career working with a diverse group of patients over 40 years ago. She started out in 1978 as a nurse at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC). Her professional focus has always been on families, working first in obstetrics and then transitioning to pediatrics. Olson’s years of experience have helped her understand how to best relate to each patient, no matter what their age or background.

“It doesn’t matter what culture you’re from,” she says, “Parents love their kids. Parents want what’s best for their kids. I always start with that assumption and remember that what I think their kid needs is not necessarily what the parents think their kid needs.”

This openness, as well as her desire to learn as much as possible about her patients, have helped Olson build trust and establish rapport in the Cedar Riverside community. She says that at this point in her career, most of her patients were referred through word of mouth by a family member or close friend.

Olson also works hard to develop friendships with interpreters, who she feels are her key to forming stronger relationships with patients and families who don’t speak English. She observes,

“There’s an advantage to the interpreters quite often knowing the families better than I do.”

One of Olson’s favorite parts of her job is being able to see a child grow into an adult, and assisting them in navigating the transition from pediatrics into adult medicine.

Olson says that the best way for a new patient to ensure they are receiving the care they need is by trying out different providers until they find the right fit. “We have a variety of providers here, and some personalities are going to fit better than others,” she explains. "I just encourage them to not feel like they have to stick with one person if they don’t feel a connection. But just give somebody a try, and then try somebody else.” Olson assures patients that, using this process, they will find the right match at People’s Center.

She says, “The providers here are a tight group. We’re respectful to each other; we’re really good about helping each other; and I always feel I can go to them with my questions. Everybody is really open and good team members. I think one of People’s Center’s biggest strengths is the strong provider staff.”

To make an appointment with Deb Olson, or another People’s Center provider, please call (612) 332-3973.

Christine Rangen on The Wellness Hub

The following statement was written by People's Center's Certified Midwife, Christine Rangen. Rangen read the statement at The Wellness Hub Community Open House.

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Health is more than the absence of disease. The World Health Organization says, “Health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being.“

That applies to individuals AND communities.

This Wellness Hub will have a positive impact both, and we’ve been so excited to get it open. Now, our excitement turns to seeing all that will come from it.

For many, a gym membership or fitness classes have been inaccessible due to cost, transportation, and time. The Wellness Hub is a place that reduces, or completely removes, those barriers.

As health care providers, we can “prescribe” exercise, knowing that what was once out of reach for many is now completely accessible. It brings a new sense of possibility for our patients.

What was once just a limited encounter between provider and patient, behind clinic walls—issuing medications and advice—will become a way engage with one another through offerings in The Wellness Hub. For all of us, our own physical, mental, and social well-being will be within our own reach and in our own hands.

Extending beyond the clinic walls will break down barriers between providers and patients. We won’t just be someone a patient sees when they are sick. We’ll be tending our health, side-by-side, encouraging and inspiring one another. Knowing our patients, beyond their charts and our short visits, will go a long way in delivering effective quality care.

The offerings will line up with an individual’s needs. A 2-hour visit, including a check-up with their clinic provider, a small-group class on topics related to their health needs, and a fitness class, will help folks get started.

Building The Wellness Hub happened because of incredible support, especially from Target. Making it all that it can be will require continued support from the community. Programming and general operations require resources.

As a pay-what-you-can facility, some will come from user donations.

New partnerships will bring other resources, building the capacity of The Wellness Hub, expanding economic opportunities, and strengthen the community. One such emerging partnership is a “training trainers” initiative, bringing professionals together with interested members of the community who want to become fitness professionals themselves.

And, it will take money, in the form of donations for supportive members of the community.

I am that community, and I look forward to investing myself here – my health, time, energy, and money.

I hope you will join me in supporting The Wellness Hub. Together, we will continue to build a culture of health and wellness in our community.

To increase vaccine rates in the Somali community, messenger is more important than message.

By Sahra Noor, CEO

As a public health nurse and Somali-American mother of three children, I am deeply troubled by the continued outbreak of measles in Minnesota. 

As of May 17, Minnesota Department of Health reports 61 cases of measles in multiple counties in Minnesota, and most of them are unvaccinated Somali children. 

Although the outbreak is not limited to the Somali community in Minnesota, the persistent and aggressive campaign of anti-vaccine activists who are using their first world privilege to exploit the Somali community’s fears of autism is making containment of measles nearly impossible. 

This has significant consequences for all of us in Minnesota. We need creative outreach efforts and an all hands on deck approach to curtail the most unprecedented outbreak in Minnesota’s history. 

While it may be easy to blame parents who don’t vaccinate their children as irresponsible people who ignore scientific evidence and put their children and the public at risk, we have to keep in mind that these parents love their children.  However their fear of autism is so overwhelming that fact-based education and statistics is not enough. 

Fear is a powerful emotion and it takes strong relationships, empathy and trust between the community and health care providers to overcome it.

Parenting can be a very isolating, and sometimes frightening experience that is often complicated by the flood of information – sometimes helpful and instructive, sometimes false and misleading. 

Imagine being a new mother in a new country. Your healthcare provider speaks a different language, the community which supported you, and the family that raised you, are thousands of miles away. 

Now you are hearing frightening stories of children with severe autism and parents who swear their children were “perfect” before their first dose of MMR vaccine. 

Where do you go for trusted information for the newest, most precious and fragile member of your family? You go to people you trust: mothers, neighbors, sisters, aunts and grandparents. 

To contain this epidemic and prevent additional outbreaks, Somali parents must not be demonized or shamed. They need to be engaged in a meaningful dialogue about the benefits and risks of vaccines in a language they can understand. 

This is important because providers are often short on time and it can be difficult to determine what a parent may or may not know about vaccines during a fifteen minute visit. 

Somali parents’ concern of a linkbetween the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism may not be grounded in science, but it is pervasive among all Somalis.

A young Somali father recently told me: “When I refuse the MMR vaccine, I feel shamed by the doctors. They don’t realize that my head tells me the vaccine is safe, but my heart tells me not to take the chance.”

Those of us in healthcare are trained to talk to the head rather than the heart. It is time to change that. As parents wrestle with their decision to vaccinate or not, we must not be too quick to lecture or assume parents have been engaged in a conversation.

I was born and raised in Somalia. I strongly believe in the importance of vaccines and I vaccinate my children. We need to amplify the voices of parents like me and leverage Somali culture’s rich oral tradition to combat the false and dangerous messages of anti-vaccine activists. 

I am calling upon my public health colleagues to join me and think of new ways of engaging the community and create a supportive environment for Somali parents to get accurate information and education,  discussfears and risks openly in order to improve the health of their children, and our overall community.

People’s Center is positioned well to host dialogues, as a trusted healthcare organization that serves thousands of Somali parents each year.  In the next few weeks, we will partner with parents, health providers, community members, artists and religious leaders tofacilitateopen and honest dialogue about a path forward and a solution to end this crisis situation. 

We don’t have to agree on what is best for children, but we do need to listen to each other. Our children’s lives depend on it. 

Sahra Noor is CEO of People’s Center Health Services