Riverwood receives statewide award for community benefits

Riverwood dietitians Melissa Te Slaa (left) and Megan Perpich (right) with Natalie Braden, outpatient services coordinator (center) with MHA award

Riverwood Healthcare Center was recognized by the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) for one of the outstanding community programs in Minnesota with its Riverwood Connects program. At the recent 2023 MHA annual meeting, Riverwood representatives accepted the award for exemplary achievement in community benefits for addressing social determinants of health with patients.

MHA shared these comments on the community benefits award: “The team at Riverwood recognizes the unique needs of the population they serve. With an older population in a rural area, getting resources out to those who need them was a challenge that Riverwood took on and developed community partnerships to address.”

Riverwood Connects is a community health initiative that provides a central platform for resources addressing social influencers of health, such as food insecurity, housing and transportation. Riverwood adds patients to the platform to ensure they can access the resources they need and partners with Aitkin County CARE to ensure resources are distributed effectively.

In June 2023, Riverwood Connects went live with Find Help and Food Rx. Find Help is a collaborative effort derived from the 2020 needs assessment completed by the Aitkin County Coalition, led by Aitkin County CARE. The assessment identified the need for a community resource hub with Find Help selected as the online hub of choice.

Find Help was built in 2010 to offer an easier way to find social services and to connect to them directly and electronically. With the financial and administrative assistance from Aitkin County CARE, Riverwood implemented Find Help in its facility and community wide.

“Aitkin County CARE has been instrumental in assisting with community outreach to organizations on onboarding with Find Help,” said Rachel Johnson, population health program manager at Riverwood. “Through data analytics with both the electronic health record and Find Help, Riverwood has been able to address patient’s social determinants of health and connect them to resources needed.”

One of the key resources provided through the Riverwood Connects program is access to nutritious food. The Food Rx program emphasizes the role healthy food plays in overall health and eliminates barriers like budget and transportation to accessing food. In partnership with local farmers, Aitkin Farmers Market Hub, and Aitkin County Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, participants are provided Community Supported Agriculture shares and “Riverwood Connects Bucks” to be used at the Aitkin Farmers Market.

By providing equitable access to nutritious food and community resources, Riverwood is taking steps to make the communities it serves healthier.