Our Community is Amazing!

2020 was a tough year, but thanks to our community, we received over $45,000 of basic needs items. Volunteers organized donation drives for food, underwear and clothing, masks and PPE, and hygiene supplies.

These donations make such a difference for the people we serve since they have low incomes and many have experienced homelessness.

Ken’s Story

When fires and unrest occurred on E Lake Street last May, Ken was worried about his new apartment at Minnehaha Commons. He made sure protesters knew that “people live here,” so no one would harm the building.

Ken was one of the first tenants to move into Touchstone’s new supportive housing program, Minnehaha Commons, in November 2019. He keeps a close watch on the building, residents, and staff. “I like to watch over the building and make sure everyone’s doing OK.” When Touchstone asked for food donations, Ken was there to help carry boxes and distribute food. He likes to help wherever he can.

Before moving into Minnehaha Commons, Ken spent the last thirty years in shelters and on the streets, moving back and forth between Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. When his housing fell through, he would move again and start over. “I must’ve stayed in every shelter in the Twin Cities. Some of the neighborhoods were full of violence and drugs. I needed to get out of there,” said Ken. He was determined that one day he would have a place of his own.

Because of his age and health, Hennepin County prioritized him for an apartment, but his phone did not work, so Touchstone staff could not reach him. However, they were able to contact his brother in Kansas City to let him know an apartment was waiting for him at Minnehaha Commons.

Ken had been homeless for a long time, so he was skeptical about Touchstone and the possibility of having a home. “I checked out the apartment and the neighborhood before I met with anyone.” He met several times with Touchtone staff in public libraries to learn about the program and complete paperwork. He started to trust staff and decided to give it a try. “I thought, this will work,” said Ken.

He moved into Minnehaha Commons with a furnished apartment and received household items through Touchstone’s partnership with Bridging. He needed a new bed because of a sciatic nerve condition. Touchstone staff used our Basic Needs Fund to find the right bed for him. “The bed is so comfortable. I have to stay off the bed or I’ll fall asleep right away,” he said.

Ken wants to work toward his longtime goal of getting his GED. He’s excited that he received a computer from Touchstone’s partnership with Hennepin County and PCs for People. Now, he can enroll in an online GED program.

Ken has lived in his apartment at Minnehaha Commons for over a year. “I appreciate my apartment, Touchstone staff and services. They help me clean my apartment and take me to the grocery store and food shelf,” said Ken. “This is a great place to live.”

Touchstone partners with Hennepin County and PCs for People to eliminate the digital divide

Thanks to Hennepin County and PCs for People, Touchstone received 250 laptop computers in December 2020 to distribute to clients who live in Hennepin County.

This event is part of the Hennepin County’s broader effort to break down digital barriers that were starkly illuminated during the COVID-19 crisis. People of color were often the first to lose their jobs and had the fewest technology resources – laptops and internet access – to seek or apply for jobs, maintain their education or see their doctor through a telehealth visit. The county is using CARES Act to bridge this divide. See Connecting Hennepin at www.hennepin.us/tech to learn more, including some free or low-cost resources.

“Job hunting, distance learning, and keeping medical appointments today in this crisis requires computers and internet. It’s that simple,” said Ellie Skelton, Executive Director. “We appreciate Hennepin County’s effort to help people who are facing the greatest disparities in jobs, income, education and health.”

“Hennepin County is leveraging CARES Act funding to help county residents who haven’t had computers or internet to remain home and continue seeking jobs, learning or consulting with their medical provider. Now, more than ever, technology is critical for all families,” said Hennepin County Acting Director of Education Support Services Chela Guzmán-Wiegert.

The laptops will be distributed by PCs for People. “It’s our mission to provide individuals and families with the life-changing benefits of owning their own computer,” said Mary Lucic, Community Outreach & Fundraising Manager for PCs for People. The new laptops come with a year of free technical support from PCs for People.

The county and its community partners are identifying people for this program and enrolling them. Key criteria are lack of technology and someone in the family job hunting, distance learning or needing to maintain connection with their doctors.

For future distribution events, please see www.hennepin.us/tech.

Donna’s Story

Donna is glad to be in Minnesota, but she had a long journey to get here. She is an Indigenous Hawaiian and lived on the islands most of her life. After her 36-year marriage ended, she had no money and nowhere to live, so she slept on the street or on the beach. “Hawaii is so expensive, I couldn’t afford to buy food,” she said.

Donna and her boyfriend moved to the mainland, stopping in Reno, to see her son. While visiting, she had a serious heart attack, and spent seven weeks relearning how to walk, speak and eat. She received a service dog, Cha Cha, trained to alert her at the sign of a heart attack or stroke. Cha Cha has been a great help, but she still had several strokes and heart attacks in recent years.

“Living in a tent wasn’t easy,” said Donna. “It was so hard for me to get off the ground. The encampment was a dangerous place.” Within a few weeks of living in Powderhorn Park, Donna went into cardiac arrest. She had no where to go when she left the hospital, so she went back to the park.

“Thank God for Touchstone,” said Donna. Our staff met her when she was at her lowest point. “I was so depressed. I wanted to kill myself,” she said. Our staff told her she was eligible for an apartment and services at Minnehaha Commons. They helped her with verifications and paperwork, and she was able to move in just three weeks.

“I just saw my first snowfall. It was cold, but so pretty,” said Donna. “I love Minnesota. The people are nice, and I can buy a lot of groceries with my limited income.” Donna stays in touch with her six children and twenty grandchildren through Facebook and Instagram. “We all love football and have fun cheering for different teams, she said.”

“I really like my new apartment,” says Donna. “Touchstone staff help me manage my medications and doctor appointments, keep up my apartment, and take me grocery shopping. The staff are wonderful – they are like family to me.”

“I love my new life,” says Donna.

There are so many people like Donna, with no home, no place to go, and have mental health and medical conditions. Touchstone is helping people find a home and receive the support needed to keep their housing. Our programs help people move from homelessness and our services support and build their stability. Last year, our staff found housing for 55 people, like Donna, who experienced homelessness.

Unfortunately, the need for housing services and supports is greater than our capacity. Our staff receive phone calls each day, asking if there are openings in our housing programs. It’s so hard to tell someone there is a waiting list.

Your gift helps people have a home and services to support their needs, so they can live well in their community.

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Statement on Racism and Commitment for Action

Statement on Systemic Racism and Mental Health Disparities and Commitment for Action
Touchstone Mental Health Board of Directors and Agency Leadership
November 2020

2020 has been an extraordinarily challenging year by any standard. Against the backdrop of a pandemic and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, systemic racism and police brutality have had a profound impact on Minnesota, our nation, and our world. George Floyd’s horrific murder in May on the streets of Minneapolis set off shockwaves around the globe as millions stood up to demand justice and call for change.

The U.S. presidential election has added another layer of turbulence to a nation already grappling with a historic convergence of challenges. While we are hopeful that the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will create more meaningful progress toward equality, we also recognize that no matter who is in the White House, there is much work to be done. The past several months has been a painful and shocking reminder of just how far we still must go to create a more just and equitable society.

Research indicates that racism and discrimination adversely affect both physical health and mental health.1 At Touchstone, we believe that recovery from mental illness requires a focus on whole-person wellness, not simply treating mental illness in isolation. We also understand that throughout history, Black, Indigenous and people of color have been repeatedly traumatized by racism and racist structures and these issues deeply affect the whole-person wellness of those we serve. Upwards of 39% of our clients2 are from groups that are traditionally affected by racism; therefore, our focus on the whole person demands that we also address the impact of racism.

Additionally, disparities exist in access to mental health care, and these disparities are quite literally a matter of life and death. In the Advancing Health Equity in Minnesota report, the Minnesota Department of Health found that people with serious and persistent mental illness die, on average, 25 years earlier than those who have not had that experience.3

As a community mental health organization, Touchstone is committed to helping people recover from mental illness and develop the skills they need to live well in their communities. We are working toward a future that is equitable and safe for everyone. And we are actively working to identify and dismantle bias in the mental health system. Here is how we’re taking action:

• We commit to continuing our work in our community to improve access to mental health services and reporting on our impact.
• We commit to working with our partners in the cities and counties in our community to improve the response to mental and behavioral health crises and reducing our reliance on 911 for a police response.
• We commit to on-going diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training for our staff and board of directors and reporting on this initiative. This education will cover topics such as systemic racism and other forms of bias and culturally responsive care.
• We commit to examine, implement, and report on human resources practices that focus on improving the recruitment and retention of individuals that are Black, Indigenous or people of color.
• We commit to continue to diversify our leadership staff and board of directors and reporting on our progress in our annual report.

We recognize that solutions for deeply entrenched issues, such as systemic racism, are not fast or simple. But we remain committed to acting as a force of positive change in our community, working for wellness, justice, and peace.

Signed,

Touchstone Mental Health Board of Directors

Erica Taylor-Radtke, Chair; Bethany Burzynski, Vice-Chair; John Fritz, Treasurer David McGraw Schuchman, MSW, LICSW (Emeritus Inactive), Secretary; Jamal Adam, Ph.D.; Gena Braaten; Lyndsay Capeder; Christine Clifford; Nikki Hill; Ann Marie Johnson, MA, PHR; Antonia Johnson, BSW, MPNA; Harvey D. Linder, Ph.D., LP; Sanchayita Ray; Liina Roth; Pia Teabout; and Ben Weisbuch, Esq., MA

Touchstone Mental Health Leadership Team

Ellie Skelton, MA, CEO / Executive Director; Chris Tomshine, BA, CFO / Vice President of Finance; Khu Thao, PsyD, LICSW, LP, Vice President of Community Mental Health; Michelle Wincell O’Leary, MA, LICSW, Vice President of Community Housing Services; Deb Hesli, LICSW, Director of Housing Innovations & Intentional Communities; Kari Scanlon, PHR, Director of Human Resources; Michele McGee, BS, Director of Operations; Anne Boone, LMFT, Director of Case Management/ Care Coordination; Deb Gruel, LSW, Director of New Hope Apartments; Katie Muehlen, LICSW, Director of Rising Cedar; Keara Nadeau-Grandy, MSW, LICSW, Director of Residential Treatment Bloomington; Linda Stenstadvold, MSW, LICSW, Director of Lyric Lane Residential Treatment & Crisis Stabilization; Linda Olsen, LICSW, Director of Residential Treatment Minneapolis and Chris Westergaard, MSW, LGSW, Director of Minnehaha Commons

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2001). Mental Health, Culture, Race and Ethnicity. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44243/
2. Touchstone Mental Health. (2020). Touchstone Mental Health 2019 Annual Report. Retrieved from: https://www.touchstonemh.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Annual_Report_2019_web-1.pdf
3. Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). Advancing Health Equity in Minnesota: Report to the Legislature. Retrieved from: https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/equity/reports/ahe_leg_report_020114.pdf

Give to the Max to Help End Homelessness

A gift to Touchstone brings immediate support for people needing a home. Make your gift to Touchstone today!

“I never thought I would be homeless,” said Terry. “I had a regular everyday life, with a  family, a home and a job. I’m also a proud Veteran.” His life changed, but he was doing alright on his own, until his landlord lost his rental subsidy paperwork.

Once he lost his housing, Terry spent his days finding a meal, a shelter for the night, and figuring out how to be safe and survive. Fortunately, he was referred to Touchstone. Terry’s life changed when he moved into Minnehaha Commons and received support from Touchstone staff.

In recent months, there is a surge in the number of people in the Twin Cities, who are homeless. Many are living on the street or in a tent, as fears of COVID keeps them  from going to a shelter.

We expect even more people will lose their housing when eviction restrictions are lifted. There is a great need for Touchstone programs that help people find and keep their housing. Our staff receive phone calls each day, asking if there are openings in our housing programs. It’s hard to tell someone there is a waiting list.

You can give now, to support people like Terry, so they have a home.

Donate Today