Hennepin Health Newsletter: May 2014


May 2014



Ross Owen
Deputy Director

Julie Bluhm
Clinical Program Manager

Lori Imsdahl
Operations Coordinator

Facebook icon

Like us on Facebook


Hennepin Health is an innovative health care delivery program that was launched in January 2012.

The program is a collaboration between Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center (NorthPoint), Metropolitan Health Plan (MHP), and Human Services and Public Health Department (HSPHD) of Hennepin County.

Hennepin Health members receive care from a multidisciplinary care coordination team. Other innovative features include a common electronic health record, and tiered care that is based upon a member’s identified needs.

To be eligible, a person must:

  • reside in Hennepin County
  • be between the ages of 21-64 
  • not have any dependent children
  • be eligible for Medical Assistance (Medicaid)

Enroll at MNsure


For more information about Hennepin Health visit www.hennepin.us/ healthcare

Hennepin County Mental Health Center


The Hennepin County Mental Health Center is part of Hennepin County’s Human Services and Public Health Department, one Hennepin Health’s four partner organizations. Because of the high rate of mental health conditions in the Hennepin Health population, the center plays an important role in the continuum of services delivered to members.

The Mental Health Center provides comprehensive outpatient mental health services to adults with serious mental illness as well as those with co-occurring substance use disorders. The center also serves children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbance.

Located on the second and third floors of the Nicollet Exchange Building at 1801 Nicollet Avenue, the Mental Health Center offers a range of services, including:

  • Diagnostic assessments
  • Psychiatric evaluations
  • Psychological evaluations
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Medication management
  • Dual-diagnosis programs (for co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders)
  • Outreach to persons who are homeless
  • Consultation

Sally Kratz and Amber Morgan

Sally Kratz, M.S.W., L.I.C.S.W, administrative manager, and Amber Morgan, R.N., clinical care coordinator, are two staff members at the center. Both play important roles in Hennepin Health. 

Kratz and Morgan

Morgan (left) with Kratz

Morgan joined the center in 2013 under a UCare grant. When the grant expired in March 2014, Hennepin Health began funding Morgan’s care coordination services via a 2014 reinvestment initiative.

Morgan's work appears to be having an effect. In late 2013, Dana Soderlund, M.P.H., Hennepin Health data analyst, looked at the pre- and post-medical utilization rates of 56 Hennepin Health members who had received Morgan’s care coordination services. Soderlund determined that the total number of emergency department (ED), acute psychiatric services (APS), urgent care, and ambulance encounters within the cohort declined after Morgan’s engagement. This chart depicts the decline:


Kratz, who has worked at the Mental Health Center since 1999, has seen the benefits of Hennepin Health’s integrated care model. As a long-time clinician treating persons with severe psychiatric disorders, she believes that traditional models of care have been inadequate and unresponsive to the many and varied client needs for person-centered, individualized mental health services, primary and dental care, and social services. For Kratz, having the opportunity to participate in the planning and implementation of care coordination at the Mental Health Center has been both challenging and rewarding. 

The center hopes to build on the success of care coordination services and further develop and sustain innovative approaches to service delivery.


One Mental Health Center patient is 46-year-old Charles, a Hennepin Health member who was incarcerated for 26 years (from age 18 to 44) in Saint Louis, Missouri. Although Charles doesn’t excuse the actions that led to his incarceration, he notes that his early life experiences — including a physically abusive stepfather — informed some of his choices.  


Before, during, and after his release, Charles struggled with a host of mental health and chemical dependency issues including depression, anxiety, antisocial personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and alcoholism. The experience prompted him to relocate to Minneapolis in 2012; Charles believes that Minnesota’s behavioral health infrastructure is superior to many states.

From August 2012 to March 2013, Charles lived at House of Charity in Minneapolis. Here, an advocate connected him with Hennepin Health and the Hennepin County Mental Health Center.

Since he started visiting the Mental Health Center, Charles has interacted with a range of behavioral health providers, including Dr. Ngozi Wamuo, a psychiatrist; Mary Shannon-Myer, a therapist; and Amber Morgan. First, he began taking medications to help manage his symptoms and worked with Shannon-Myer to identify and address obstacles to progress. Then Shannon-Myer introduced Charles to Morgan for care coordination.

Morgan helps Charles set up his medical and dental appointments. She is also a skilled listener, someone Charles can talk to “without being judged.” Morgan introduced Charles to Connections — a men’s treatment group that meets on Tuesdays and Fridays — that she helps facilitate.

Initially, Charles was resistant to Connections because he was uncomfortable with sharing his story in a group. Once he started attending, however, Amber and the members won him over with their lack of judgment. Today, he credits this willingness to share his feelings and experiences — instead of bottling them up — as key to his recovery.

charles and amber

One of Charles’ most memorable moments in Connections occurred during his second meeting, when a man in the group — who, Charles says, bore a striking resemblance to his biological father — told Charles that, “The greatest thing a person in our position can do” is be compliant with their medications. At the time, Charles did not take his medications consistently — in part, because he worried about their side effects. However, the man’s statement inspired Charles to “create a regimen” around taking his six prescriptions.

Charles has also found the Mental Health Center's weekly Mental Illness Chemical Dependency (MICD) treatment group helpful. A person with long-time alcohol dependence, Charles traces his substance abuse to his stepfather; after being physically abused, he explains that he began to use alcohol as a way to “abuse myself,” and as a coping mechanism

One Thursday in February 2014, Charles was on the number 18 bus, enroute to the MICD treatment group, when he had a moment of weakness. He explains that he rode past the center and got off downtown at Nicollet Mall. He bought a pack of cigarettes at a drug store, and was about to buy alcohol next, when he had a moment of clarity and remembers thinking, “The liquor store has nothing to do with my life right now.”

He got back on the bus and returned to the Mental Health Center.

Today, Charles describes himself as “stable” and mostly sober, but still prone to occasional bouts of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. He believes that one of his greatest accomplishments is the confidence he’s gained in his ability to follow through. Kratz calls this confidence “emotional muscle.” Charles identifies it as the thing that prompted him to get back on the bus and return to the Mental Health Center, the thing that compels him to take his medications each day.

A few months ago, St. Stephen’s Human Services invited Charles to speak to a group of women about his life story. Charles was well received, and the experience made him realize that opening up could be beneficial not only to himself, but to others. “I have a lot to give,” he notes. “If [sharing my story] could deter one young man from getting in trouble or going to prison, then I’ve succeeded.”

On May 1, Charles accomplished one of his goals — he moved into his own apartment, a one-bedroom near Lake Calhoun that staff at St. Stephen’s helped him find. Other goals include remaining sober, banishing negativity, and continuing to learn how to “function in society.” Charles believes that it’s important to set realistic goals and to take things a step at a time.

“I can’t think about the future until I think about today,” he says.   

Looking ahead

Kratz and Morgan are optimistic about the future of behavioral health care in Minnesota. Here are four trends they’ve noticed:

  • Increased recognition of psychiatric illness as a public health issue; it affects more than the individual
  • Increased acknowledgement that integrating medical, mental health, and social needs is effective
  • Increased recognition that poverty is a barrier; it’s difficult to focus on recovery when you’re thinking about survival and basic needs
  • Less stigma attached to mental health issues

Mental Health Center location, contact information, and hours

Nicollet Exchange Building

1801 Nicollet Avenue

2nd and 3rd floors

Minneapolis, MN 55403

General information: 612-596-9438

Appointments: 612-596-9438

Fax: 612-879-3824

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wednesday: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Back to top

Volunteer Spotlight: Judy Soderberg

Judy Soderberg has been a member of Hennepin Health’s Care Model Committee since 2012. While most of the committee is composed of employees from Hennepin County Medical Center, NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, Metropolitan Health Plan, and Hennepin County’s Human Services and Public Health Department — Hennepin Health’s four partners — Judy is retired and a volunteer. One reason why she’s interested in Hennepin Health is because the program provides health care for many people with behavioral health concerns. Soderberg’s son Shean has paranoid schizophrenia.


Shean, a few years after his diagnosis

Thanksgiving Day

“I call [Shean’s schizophrenia] ‘the journey,’” Soderberg said, over coffee at a Dunn Brothers at Hennepin County Medical Center. “You don’t know about mental illness, it may not be part of your knowing, unless it comes to you in some way.” For Soderberg, that journey into knowing began on a Thanksgiving Day about 25 years ago, when Shean was in his early twenties.

Soderberg recalled that because of their busy schedules she’d seen Shean infrequently in the months leading up to that life-changing day. When he arrived at her house on Thanksgiving, he appeared agitated and began pacing. He then left abruptly — in Soderberg’s car — and didn’t tell anyone where he was going.

When Shean returned a few hours later, Soderberg learned that he had totaled her vehicle in Saint Louis Park.

Soderberg’s oldest son Aaron took Shean to Hennepin County Medical Center. A string of hospitalizations followed. When Shean was diagnosed with schizophrenia during one of these hospitalizations, Soderberg committed to learning everything she could about mental illness.

Soderberg explained that a few months before that Thanksgiving Day, Shean had been in a bicycle accident near Lake Calhoun and suffered a traumatic brain injury. To this day, it’s unclear how much of Shean’s behavior can be attributed to his traumatic brain injury versus his schizophrenia.

The aftermath

Soderberg noted that the years immediately following Shean’s diagnosis were particularly difficult. Shean was hospitalized repeatedly, including two hospitalizations at Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center for almost two years each time. Between hospitalizations, he lived in different places, including a group home and a board and lodge; for a while, he lived on the streets. Because Shean didn’t want to accept that he had schizophrenia, he resisted taking his prescriptions.

Soderberg believed that the turning point came when Shean was able to come to peace with his diagnosis and, consequently, be compliant with his medications.  

Another turning point occurred when Soderberg, her ex-husband, and their two other children — Aaron and Jennifer — came to a mutual understanding that supporting Shean was “a family operation.” “The expectation in our family is that everyone does something,” Soderberg said. She characterized her role as Shean’s “unofficial case manager.”

Shean today

Today Shean lives in a supportive housing unit in Minneapolis. He is a Medicaid recipient. He also qualified for a Brain Injury Waiver through the state of Minnesota. The waiver covers a number of services, including an independent living services (ILS) worker. Shean’s ILS worker visits him once per week to help him with paperwork, grocery shopping, banking, and more. 

shean today

Shean today, with his daughter and grandson

Shean’s involvement in the Interact Center — which is also funded through the waiver — has been particularly pivotal. Located in Minneapolis’ North Loop, Interact is a visual and performing arts center for artists with disabilities. Shean, who is in the performing arts track, typically spends three to five days per week at the center. Soderberg said that Interact has given Shean a sense of purpose, structure in his day, and new friends.


The Interact Center is located at 212 3rd Avenue North #140

interact artists

Interact artists

Soderberg as an advocate

Because of her personal experiences, Soderberg has become a mental health advocate. “I look at myself as a reality check for people,” she said about her involvement with Hennepin Health’s Care Model Committee.

One of the realities she is particularly passionate about sharing is the state of transitional care (the health care a patient receives as they move from one level of care to another, such as from a hospital to home). Soderberg recalled an occasion when Shean struggled after his discharge from the hospital because no one had helped him set up his medications.


Do you have a family member or a friend with a mental illness? Here are three resources that Soderberg recommended:

Back to top

Update: Sobering Center

In late 2012, Hennepin Health decided to use a portion of its reinvestment initiative funds for a new county sobering center at 1800 Chicago Avenue. The $185,000 allocation was to cover center start-up costs, a van to transport patients, motivational interviewing training for staff, and more.

Hennepin Health envisioned the new sobering center as a 30-bed facility that could be used to divert chronic inebriates from the emergency department to a lower — and less costly — level of care, if clinically appropriate. A year later, despite having selected a preferred vendor through a competitive proposal process, the sobering center is not yet operational. Many people in the community are wondering why.

Current status

In 2013, county officials reviewed the space at 1800 Chicago Avenue. They determined that the facility needed several upgrades in order to operate. It is estimated that these upgrades will cost up to $4 million beyond the original $185,000. Further, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has indicated that the sobering center would need to be licensed, but have not yet developed the licensing requirements. This has pushed back the timeline for implementation.

Jennifer DeCubellis, assistant county administrator, is scheduled to go before the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners in June to present a business case for investing up to $4 million in the sobering center. If approved, DeCubellis anticipates that it may take about 18 months (November 2015) before the upgrades are made and the facility is licensed. DeCubellis notes that there are other possible courses of action, as well, such as finding an alternate facility that requires fewer upgrades.

Currently, counties are 100 percent responsible for funding their own detox services. However, due in part to the Affordable Care Act, the national standard is expected to change. In the future, state and federal Medicaid dollars will likely be another source of funding. At their June 2014 meeting, DeCubellis and the Board of Commissioners will discuss what entities will pay for the sobering center and a timeline for when it will go operational.

Policymakers have discussed a Hennepin County sobering center for over 12 years. DeCubellis explains that this is an exciting time because key stakeholders now support its creation, including the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the local police department. As the year progresses, Hennepin Health will continue to provide updates on this reinvestment initiative.

Back to top