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The Minnesota Department of Human Services provides Minnesotans with a variety of services intended to help people live as independently as possible.


2013 Commissioners Circle of Excellence Awards

Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson (center) presents a Circle of Excellence Award to volunteers from Therapy Dogs International Chapter #125 (from left) Clare Grendler, Marilyn Miller, Paulette Julson, Marsha Rusco, Debra Anderson, Jaci Carufel, Donna Grendler and Lorena Palm.Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson honored eight organizations from across the state for their outstanding contributions to human services program clients. Recipients of the 2013 Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Awards were recognized Monday, Dec. 16, at a ceremony at the Elmer L. Andersen Human Services Building in St. Paul.

Jesson said winners in the third annual Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Awards stand out among many organizations providing critical human services programs and promoting healthy and productive communities in Minnesota.

“Our vision at the Department of Human Services is healthy people, stable families and strong communities, but we know that we won’t get there alone,” said Jesson. “The people and organizations being recognized today represent the very best of the many successful partnerships we have across Minnesota.”

The 2013 Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Award recipients are:

  • Caring Hands Dental Clinic, a nonprofit dental clinic in Alexandria, Minn., providing quality dental services to individuals on Minnesota Health Care Programs or those who don’t qualify for state insurance but do not make enough to afford a private dental office. Caring Hands Dental Clinic started in 2006 as an all-volunteer organization with the initial goal of handling dental emergencies to keep them out of hospital emergency rooms. Due to demand, hygiene and treatment programs were soon added. In 2012, the clinic hired full-time staff and established an outreach program. Its unique business model has proven successful in caring for thousands, while not competing with the private sector.
  • Conifer Estates, a 20-unit supportive/transitional housing project in Bemidji, Minn., serving homeless families. The project was developed by the Headwaters Regional Development Commission and is owned by the Beltrami County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Bi-County Community Action Programs Inc. is the primary service provider. Red Lake Housing Authority and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Housing Authority each lease five units that are made available for their respective eligible tribal members. Each tribe also provides services for their tribal members. Funding was provided by Minnesota Housing, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, Federal Home Loan Bank-Des Moines, Minnesota Department of Human Services, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the city of Bemidji.
  • Fairview Partners, a nonprofit organization based in Edina, Minn., that has been providing care to seniors since 1996, including participants in the Minnesota Senior Health Options program. Fairview Partners exists as a collaborative partnership to enhance the quality of life and health status for older adults in the seven-county metro area by providing proactive and coordinated care management in the most appropriate environment. Due to the unique partnerships that comprise Fairview Partners, there is a strong commitment to collaboration through joint decision-making, fiscal responsibility and quality outcomes. Fairview Partners is positioned to be responsive to individual choice as well as the changing needs of the community.
  • Families Achieving Success Today (FAST), a pilot initiative funded and led by Ramsey County Workforce Solutions to provide integrated and co-located employment and mental and physical health services to Minnesota Family Investment Program clients with disabilities in Ramsey County. These families might otherwise apply to Supplemental Security Income or have difficulty engaging in employment services. FAST supports the belief that every parent can work to some degree and provides the opportunity for parents to obtain employment and utilize extra help to retain their jobs over time. FAST partners include Goodwill Easter Seals as a lead agency, HIRED, Open Cities Health Center and People Incorporated Mental Health Services.
  • Hunger Solutions Minnesota, a comprehensive hunger relief organization based in St. Paul, Minn., working to end hunger by taking action, advancing public policy and guiding grassroots advocacy on behalf of hungry Minnesotans and the diverse groups that serve them. Hunger Solutions Minnesota connects Minnesota’s food shelves and hunger-relief organizations with the necessary funding, technical assistance and logistical support to reach thousands of Minnesota individuals, families and children in need, including operation of the Minnesota Food HelpLine. Its work is made possible through the generous support of donors across the country, each sharing our commitment to ensuring no Minnesotan will struggle with food insecurity alone.
  • The Mental Health Crisis Alliance, a coalition of health plans, the state of Minnesota and consumer groups working together to improve the mental health crisis system in Ramsey, Dakota and Washington counties. The Mental Health Crisis Alliance formed as a result of a system wide crisis that was sending patients with mental illness far from home to receive inpatient psychiatric care. In 2011, the alliance created the new Urgent Care for Adult Mental Health in St. Paul, Minn., to consolidate and integrate services, providing immediate crisis services to people in need. The Urgent Care for Adult Mental Health is the first such facility in the state and has measurably improved outcomes for consumers and reduced system costs.
  • Therapy Dogs International Chapter #125, a chapter of Therapy Dogs International serving the Twin Cities metro area with more than 80 certified handler-dog teams. Since the 1980s, Therapy Dogs International Chapter #125 dogs have provided emotional comfort by sharing unconditional love and affection through regular visits to the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center, hospitals, schools, nursing homes and other locations. Research has shown that therapy dogs lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, increase survival rates of people who have suffered cardiac arrest, ease depression, increase patient and staff morale, provide social stimulation and improve quality of life, among other benefits.
  • White Earth Band of Ojibwe Indian Child Welfare Program, which provides child welfare services for children and families living on and off the White Earth reservation in the Becker, Clearwater and Mahnomen counties area. The White Earth Band of Ojibwe is located in northwestern Minnesota and is the largest tribe in Minnesota. White Earth created an Indian child welfare program in 1987, a tribal court system in 1999, and assumed jurisdiction over child welfare matters on the reservation in 2007. This program has incorporated culture from first response through permanency and has been successful in achieving federal outcomes and improved service delivery.
Videos of the 2013 Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Award winners are on the video page .

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