Meeting Minutes

September 17, 2020 Minutes

Location: Remote/Zoom

Find slides from this meeting’s presentations, several COVID-19 resources, a list of members, upcoming events, and past minutes at

    1. Jim Baxter welcomes the group to a session whose focus is on issues that touch many Alliance members: Homelessness, racism and education and workforce development.
    2. Lani Vivitiro, chief policy and resource officer of the Center for the Homeless, provides an overview of Homelessness in St. Joseph County.
      1. Our most current county homeless census, taken in January, indicates we are neither at peak homelessness, nor a low, but “average.” The county shows 21 people literally have no shelter; 537 were homeless (430 households) but sheltered; 90 were described as chronically homeless, a slight increase from previous years. Mental illness and trauma count heavily among the reasons this group is facing homelessness.
      2. Vivitiro used the analogy of medical services to describe how to meet the varied needs of the homeless. A small population of chronically homeless will need permanent care similar to long-term care; another segment of the population needs a period of concentrated support similar to physical therapy, but can then reenter the world of work and maintain a home. Crisis services, similar to a hospital’s Emergency Department, serves the highly traumatized. Ultimately, prevention and diversion are the most effective approach. St. Joseph County has resources in each of these categories, although the federal government has reduced support to transitional services. The challenge is to coordinate these services to assure appropriate assistance for each client.
    3. Robert Einterz, Health Officer of the St. Joseph County Health Department, addressed the department’s recent decision to recognize racial inequity as a public health issue.
        1. The health consequences of structural racism are obvious in such measures as access to medical care; the disproportionate rates of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease; exposure to health risks such as lead paint, and disproportionate exposure to Covid in the workplace.
        2. The cost of racial inequity is clear in black infant mortality rates (3 times greater mortality than whites); life expectancy (five years less than whites); number of children in poverty; disproportionate representation in 21 and under deaths, and bias in health care diagnosis and treatment.
        3. The Health Dept.’s action plan, in addition to staff training, includes:

          1) developing a health equity and epidemiology data unit, conducting and an equity focus survey and identifying factors contributing to health disparity in partnership with Alliance members and other groups.

          2) Recruiting community health workers of color to strengthen relationships between the health dept and the community.

          3) In partnership with law enforcement, initiate a pilot program of crisis intervention that mobilizes health department staff for non-criminal problems.

    4. Kate Lee, executive director of education and workforce at the Chamber of Commerce, described resources being made available by the state, and locally, to connect the unemployed with jobs and prepare them for new opportunities. The resources are robust, but there is need for all to pitch in to connect our unemployed to some of these new outlets. (Slides provide a broad list of these resources.)

    5. The state has initiated Project Rapid Recovery for a Better Future in order to drive people into education and training and connect them with jobs that exist but might require new skills. and are state resources for identifying these jobs. A cadre of counselors from organizations ranging from Work One to Ivy Tech are providing career counseling. Tuition free training and on-the-job training are options.

      Lee is part of movement to engage local educational, faith-based and institutional leaders to engage those seeking jobs, particularly those whose jobs will have disappeared during Covid, to consider new options. Although many workforce development programs had been restricted to high school graduates, the service population has been expanded to those who have obtained college associate or bachelor’s degrees who are having trouble finding work.


      Crossing our fingers for Emily Rupchock of United Way, who is submitting a comprehensive grant proposal for a new neighborhood center on the Southeast Side of South Bend. Application due to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in early October. The center’s work would address gaps in health equity in the neighborhood. 

    7. Bill Agnew of Saint Joseph Health System asked that everyone fill out the system’s health needs assessment survey, at:                            
    8. Suzie Krill, South Bend Fire Department Community Paramedic. introduced a new associate, Dawn Jones.

July 16, 2020 Minutes

Location: Remote/Zoom

Find slides from this meeting’s presentations, several COVID-19 resources, a list of members, upcoming events, and past minutes at

  • Jim Baxter, Alliance coordinator, welcomed members and introduced Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.
  • In her 30-minute presentation, Dr. Sullivan made several notes about FSSA’S work against COVID-19, which she described as “flying the plane while building it.”
    1. One of the first decisions, to ramp of Telehealth to improve access to health care, proved fortuitous, particularly for those suffering mental health or substance abuse issues. Attendance to telehealth conferences for this population improved the treatment of many. Telehealth likely will continue to be important in mental health treatment in the future. FSSA continues to iron out problems in HIPPA, access to broadband and payments.
    2. Work groups assembled to address the social determinants of health and vulnerable populations helped narrow service gaps. One such achievement was identifying housing for people who live in group homes (homeless shelters, homes for the disabled) who needed somewhere to recover from COVID. The quantity of rooms needed has decreased.
    3. FSSA took several administrative actions to ensure that access to services would continue to be available, to the extent that rules and criteria were suspended.
    4. Stepping up a merger between 211 and FSSA proved extremely helpful, especially including the real time trend data they are able to access (the St. Joseph County Health Dept. and the Covid-response team overseen by United Way also have been able to access this data and plan responses based on this useful and up to date data.)
    5. FSSA became the sixth state in the U.S. to begin delivering SNAP orders, particularly helpful to rural areas. Deliveries will continue after the COVID crisis passes.
    6. In cooperation with the Indiana Dept of Ed, some 600,000 Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards have been distributed to families, in lieu of meals students would have received in schools, had face-to-face classes been in session during the last three months of the school year.
    7. Indiana has very advanced data partnerships with CTSI and WISE, an academic library consortium. Both have made highly effective contributions to provide data that informs the state’s decisions.
    8. She favors statewide wearing of face masks
    9. In a weekly newsletter she publishes, “Broken Pieces,” Dr. Sullivan examined the philosophy of devising solutions not to help the majority, but to solve the problems of the small number that fall through the cracks. Through that method, the majority also will be helped.
  • Laura Jensen of United Way presented slides reviewing the efforts of the Covid-19 task force. Before COVID, about 37 percent of the county’s population had been struggling to make ends meet, is stretched to the limit, or lives in poverty. With unemployment spiking at 20 percent, this population has become more vulnerable and is the focus of the task force’s work. The task force has transition from emergency response to what they call “early recovery,” and is planning through June 2021 for a restoration phase and a community development phase that considers the possibility of future events. (See slides for further detail and budget information.)
  • Robin Vida of the St. Joseph County Department of Health noted that cases are on the upswing again. IN addition:
    1. Regarding school openings, the health department has worked very closely with all school districts on safe approaches. While preparing for schools to open, the department also is monitoring the increase in cases and will recommended course corrections based on the presence of the virus.
    2. The department and the department’s board are working on expanded emphasis on facemasks, this time targeting employers with a message to keep their employees safe.
    3. The board has declared racism a public health issue.
    4. The department’s website now links to a map of local food banks with info such as location and hours.
    5. The department is working in conjunction with upcoming Mask Up Michiana events.
    6. Robin noted that the department will establish an online form for residents to use to comment on or complain about poor adherence to mask mandate.
  • Jim Conklin of Cultivate Culinary encouraged those who might know of food sources for donation to join a Cultivate email chain. Contact Jim by email to join.



April 23, 2020 Minutes

Location: Remote/Zoom

Find slides from this meeting’s presentations, several COVID-19 resources, a list of members, upcoming events, and past minutes at

  • Jim Baxter, Alliance coordinator, welcomed members. He has helped facilitate a number of COVID-related partnerships, many noted below. He expects the next meeting, May 21, to occur remotely.
  • Laura Jensen, United Way, reported that the agency raised more than $1 million in less that 2 weeks in support of COVID-19 initiatives, both immediate and long term. $344,000 has been distributed to 29 non-profit agencies focusing on food stability, utilities and rent and helping the staffs of agencies who work with the most disadvantaged. The next focus is to protect the county’s safety net with infrastructure grants. United Way is the recent recipient of a $1.6 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. The agency is preparing for a future that includes a cycle of: response, disease peak, downturn, resurgence, response.  Also from Jensen, the Indiana 211 hotline is effectively managing COVID-19 responses. The hold time has reduced to 2 minutes; the service spends an average of 8 minutes with each client. It has become an effective source of information on problems and problem areas.
  • Becky Zakowski, H.R. Jung and Allie Sobieski of the St. Joe County Cares Consortium (addressing youth mental health) discussed the findings of a needs assessment survey requested by the Indiana Department of Mental Health regarding access and availability to a full array of mental and emotional health services. Slides attached, but some findings:
    1. Most accessible resources were early childhood, educational, parental cafes and faith-based services. Less accessible were child advocacy or restorative justice. Formal mental health services were least available.
    2. Parents most worry about their children’s anxiety and moodiness followed by hyperactivity and suicide. Two thirds surveyed said they sought help and 2/3rds who did found resources. They start with family doctors; 1/3 ask help from their schools.
    3. Youth were surveyed through small focus groups, and their positive responses to the conversation mirrored their report that they just want someone to listen to them. They rely most on peers, less on schools and parents. These conversations were so successful, St. Joe Cares wants to continue to hold them.
    4. The organization now approaches the challenge of how to move forward using remote tools.
  • Robin Vida of the St. Joseph County Health Department indicates their professionals don’t believe Covid-19 will go away without adequate testing and a vaccine (more than 6,000 tests administered locally thus far.) Physical distancing and frequent hand washing may become a way of life, which will greatly cut down on disease transmission. Vida asked alliance members to seek information from the county or state health departments and their social media outlets, and to share that information widely as a means of negating inaccurate information, a particular problem in minority communities.
  • Beacon’s Kimberly Green Reeves described testing sites opening in neighborhoods where health disparities are most persistent, including Harrison Elementary School and Goodwill on Western Ave. These sites provide assessment, testing and education. Michelle Peters adds that St. Joseph Health Center also is reaching out into neighborhoods in need, providing testing at Sister Maura Brannick and other sites. Map of St. Joseph Health System testing sites
  • Jim Conlin described Cultivate Culinary’s success in stockpiling frozen meals to address food insecurity that likely will extend beyond the stay-at-home mandate. Assisted by volunteers including 24 employees of the Parks Dept., South Bend Schools, the Northern Indiana Food Bank, they have prepared 35,000 meals and may eventually reach 60,000. They have been able to tap into food sources from the USDA and have financial support from United Way. They expect to deliver 15,000 meals a week, 10,000 through South Bend Schools and 5,000 from agencies helping other populations including the elderly, for at least six weeks.



September 17, 2020 Partner Presentations
















































July 16, 2020 Partner Presentation












































April 23, 2020 Partner Presentations


St. Joseph Cares Community Presentation Main Take Aways

St. Joseph Cares Panel Review Brochure










Additional information is available about upcoming meetings and subcommittees.

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