An International Culinary Tour at New Hope Apartments

Over the course of his career Justin, New Hope Food Services Supervisor, worked as a Sous Chef and Executive Chef where he learned to cook food from all over the globe. He knows food is important in building community and that a meal can be more than food – it can be a cultural experience. “You can’t just look at food as something to eat,” Justin said. “Food can bring you to places all over the world.”

In the summer of 2015, when his colleague told him she was going to do an international food week at Rising Cedar Apartments, it inspired him to do the same for the residents at New Hope. “I thought it would be fun and a way for residents to try foods they don’t eat every day.”

He rented an outdoor wok and set up a “make your own” stir fry station on the patio, where residents could select a mix of fresh vegetables and meats for him to stir fry. It was a hit; residents have been looking forward to August 2016 International Week all year long. “They had a lot of fun and were excited to hear we were doing an International Week again,” Justin said.


Justin brought residents on a culinary tour of China, Mexico and Germany this year. He also cooked up a special American treat of steak, potatoes and stuffed mushroom caps. Justin says, “Using my skills brings new experiences and smiles to our residents – that means a lot to me. It’s a great way to bring everyone together.”

Meeting Nutrition Goals to Improve Wellness

Jill wanted to feel better and improve her health so she made an appointment with Kay Guidarelli, a Dietician with Touchstone. Together, they reviewed Jill’s current eating habits, what foods she usually ate and the barriers she has in accessing healthy food. They formed a diet plan together and set weekly goals to help her stay on track. With this additional support, Jill is working to make some changes in her diet and keeping a daily food diary to track her goals. By working with someone like Kay who understands the barriers low-income individuals face, Jill has a realistic plan to meet her goals so she can be successful.

Touchstone’s Dietician works with individuals to identify their needs and provides nutrition education to help them understand the importance of nutrition for their physical and mental health. Clients are learning the importance of eating three meals a day, eating fruits and vegetables, and how protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats can support their overall health. Clients also learn to read food labels, find alternatives to sugar sweetened beverages, and how to find places where they can get healthy food close to where they live.

The program is funded by the Minnesota Department of Health and is open to all adults who are low income, have a mental illness and live in Hennepin County. A referral is not needed to access this service. To make an appointment or if you have questions, call 612-874-6409 and ask for Touchstone Health and Wellness Services.


July is Minority Mental Health Month

Bebe Moore Campbell, founder of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Urban Los Angeles chapter, said in 2005, “Once my loved ones accepted [my] diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can’t we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans… It’s not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.”

According to NAMI, Campbell was a champion for mental health education and support among individuals of diverse communities. A leading African American author, she co-founded NAMI Urban Los Angeles and received NAMI’s 2003 Outstanding Media Award for Literature. She died in 2006. To honor her legacy, in 2008, the United States House of Representatives announced July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.


Multicultural communities often face unique issues when getting care for mental health. This NAMI infographic highlights how culture can affect mental health and the ability to get care. NAMI also provides this PDF to help you find a Culturally Competent Provider [PDF].

Mental Health America also offers information about the unique and considerable challenges faced by communities of color in accessing mental health services, along with several great resources linked below.

Cultural Competence

African American Communities and Mental Health

Native American Communities and Mental Health

Latino/Hispanic Communities and Mental Health

Asian American/Pacific Islander Communities and Mental Health

Throughout the month of July we will be posting about Minority Mental Health on Facebook and Twitter. Join the conversation with #MinorityMentalHealth.

Summer in the Garden

Like so many Minnesotans, Rising Cedar residents Russell and Jemette enjoy spending their summer working in the gardens. “I love working in the community garden – it’s so relaxing,” said Russell. “It’s good to see a small seed grow into food or a beautiful flower.”

This Nature-Based Therapy program, which focuses on healing through involvement with plants and nature, is led by Cindy Berlovitz, a Certified Horticultural Therapist with the University of Minnesota Arboretum. The program creates a connection between plants and people which is multi-sensory at every level, and the sensory stimulation nourishes and restores the brain.

The community garden has flowers, vegetables, fruit, and even a Zen garden for relaxation. Two raised beds, which can be accessed by wheelchair or while standing, were added in the summer of 2015.  “Everyone can participate now,” said Russell “You can work to your ability, sit down when you need to, and contribute what you can to the garden.”

Residents from the Rising Cedar and New Hope Apartments come together weekly to plant, weed, and harvest fruits and vegetables. The group has also worked on creating floral arrangements and has a weekly cooking activity which uses herbs, vegetables or fruit from the garden with a focus on healthy eating. During the winter months, window herb gardens, cooking and planting seedlings bring the garden indoors. “We have a big garden and need a lot of people to keep it up,” explained Jemette. “I enjoy our gardening community.”

Touchstone Announces New Executive Director

On behalf of the Touchstone Mental Health Board of Directors, we are pleased and excited to announce we have hired Ellie Skelton, MA as our new Executive Director starting on July 18th. We’re excited to have Ellie bring her experience, energy, and innovative spirit to Touchstone.

Ellie’s vast leadership experience includes more than 15 years of work as a mental health practitioner as well as in the administration of large organizations in the nonprofit and behavioral health fields. Most recently, she was the Director of Operations at Park Nicollet Melrose Center where she oversaw a staff of more than 200 and an annual budget of $26 million. Previous positions include Executive Director of Wayside House and Director of Mental Health Services at Community Involvement Programs.

Ellie has her Master’s Degree from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Health and Human Services Administration and her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Minnesota. She is a current board member for Ten Thousand Things Theater and has previously served on the MAP for Nonprofits Board, the United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, the MN supportive housing consortium, and the MN PRA chapter. She is an avid theater enthusiast, bike rider and lives with her partner Tony, their two children, two cats and dog in South Minneapolis.

As we welcome Ellie, we would also like to take a moment to recognize Jan Hallstrom for her leadership and steady hand throughout the past six months. Jan set a very high bar of excellence in her time here and has been exemplary in her role. On behalf of the Board of Directors, we can’t thank her enough for all she has done for Touchstone in this short time. Jan will continue in her role as Interim Executive Director through the transition and will be assisting with Ellie’s on-boarding.

We would also like to thank Ballinger|Leafblad, and specifically Lars Leafblad, for their tireless work, professionalism, and counsel throughout this process.

Donna Langer-Hanson                  Leigh-Erin Irons
Board Chair                                   Search Committee Chair

Touchstone Assisted Living Recognized with a 2016 Bronze National Quality Award

National Center for Assisted LivingTouchstone’s Assisted Living program locations, the New Hope Apartments and Rising Cedar Apartments, both received the 2016 Bronze – Commitment to Quality Award by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL). The award is the first of three distinctions possible through the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program, which honors long term and post-acute care providers that have demonstrated their commitment to improving the quality of care for seniors and persons with disabilities.

“A commitment to always improve the quality of care and quality of life for the residents and families we serve is what this award represents,” said AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Board of Overseers Chair Christine Boldt. “This year’s recipients have demonstrated that commitment. I commend all of them for their hard work and dedication.”

Implemented by AHCA/NCAL in 1996, the National Quality Award Program is centered on the core values and criteria of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, which is the foundation of the metric-based AHCA/NCAL Quality Initiative. The program assists providers of long term and post-acute care services in achieving their performance goals.

The program has three levels: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Providers begin the quality improvement process at the Bronze level, where they develop an organizational profile with fundamental performance elements such as vision and mission statements and an assessment of customers’ expectations. Bronze applicants must also demonstrate their ability to implement a performance improvement system. Trained Examiners review each application to determine if the center has met the demands of the criteria. Touchstone will now move forward in developing approaches and achieving performance levels that meet the criteria required for the Silver – Achievement in Quality Award. A full list of the 2016 recipients is available on the AHCA/NCAL Quality Awards website here.

The National Quality Award Program is sponsored by AHCA/NCAL Associate Business Members: My InnerView, National Research Corporation; PointRight; Team TSI Corporation; and First Quality. The awards will be presented during AHCA/NCAL’s 67th Annual Convention and Exposition in Nashville, Tennessee, October 16-19, 2016 where Touchstone will be presenting with the University of Minnesota on Meeting the Mental Health Challenge.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represent more than 13,000 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day.