NorthPoint adapts to the times, continues to serve

Photos courtesy of NorthPoint NorthPoint’s front door COVID-19 screeners

NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center continues to serve North Minneapolis in a variety of ways. Its clinic is continuing to schedule and hold doctor’s appointments over the telephone, and the Community Food Shelf continues to offer pre-packaged food shelf items.

“We knew it was important that there was an access point for the community that we serve,” said NorthPoint CEO Stella Whitney-West. When Governor Tim Walz issued a stay at home order for Minnesotans in late March, Whitney-West knew NorthPoint’s clients and patients would be concerned about leaving their homes for appointments and picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy.

“A number of the patients and clients have said that they have had a lot of fear about leaving their household,” said Whitney-West. “Once people know they can talk to their doctor or therapist over the phone, they’ve really been pleased they have been able to do that.”

NorthPoint presently conducts some of its medical and behavioral health appointments over the telephone. The CEO said this enables the staff to be more prepared for COVID-19 testing in person at the main campus on 1313 Penn Ave. N. In the meantime, testing for the virus has also been increasing at the Center.

As of [April 10], we’ve had 42 tests and two that are pending,” said Whitney-West. “We’ve had one positive test overall.” She said recently results from the tests have been coming back from Hennepin County Medical Center within 24 hours. This quick turnaround time hasn’t always been the case.

“That has been a really significant improvement,” said Whitney-West. “[At the] beginning of testing, it was taking three, four, sometimes five to six days.”

The availability of COVID-19 testing as well as learning about the virus itself and how to stop the spread has led to new information about the virus being published almost daily. Whitney-West suggests calling NorthPoint’s Call Center for more information about whether a situation is urgent enough to warrant coming into the clinic for an in-person appointment.

“Everyone that comes in is screened. We ask a series of questions,” said Whitney-West. “If we think that someone is high risk and that they should be tested, we will have them go into our isolation clinics where they can be further tested.”

Only NorthPoint patients can be administered a COVID-19 test there.

According to Dr. Paul Erickson, the clinic’s medical director, the test is only administered if a person meets the conditions handed down by the Minnesota Department of Health. These include being over age 65 or if under 65 being a healthcare or nursing facility worker or having one of a number of pre-existing conditions, including diabetes, chronic kidney disease and heart disease.

“In our population here that we serve in North Minneapolis and the surrounding area, we do have a fairly large percentage of patients who have these secondary health conditions. We feel we should be testing these people if they develop symptoms.”

According to Dr. Erickson, a large percentage of long-term-care nursing home personal attendants and certified medical assistants are single moms in our community. “They are working, and they are considered essential. We need to be here for them if they get sick, to test them.”

The medical director said that from a Minnesota perspective, the percentages of Whites and Blacks contracting the disease “look pretty reasonable. It is a revelation that Black and Brown communities are being hit harder than other communities.”

Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported Black Americans are being infected and killed by this virus at a disproportionately higher rate than White Americans. In the Post’s analysis, counties with a majority Black populations have “three times the rate of infections and nearly six times the rate of deaths as majority White counties.”

“When you have a virus attack like the coronavirus and the way it is transmitted, you already know it is going to hit the Communities of Color at a significantly higher rate,” said Whitney-West. Referring to social distancing, she said that for some people social distancing is a luxury.

Submitted photo Stella Whitney-West

“It may be that you have a family in a one- or two-bedroom apartment where you don’t have the ability to do that [social distance],” said Whitney-West. “If you are taking public transportation, social distancing becomes a little difficult.”

Whitney-West urged anyone with health concerns to call the clinic. “They are able to connect people with an appointment and make sure people know what services we are providing and what services will be provided after the stay-at-home order is lifted.”

NorthPoint is also allowing patients to have 90-day-supply prescriptions at the pharmacy as long as the prescription is from a NorthPoint provider, because this will reduce how often clients need to come to the pharmacy. The center is also offering pre-packaged food at their food shelf to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 among families and staff. 

Reach NorthPoint’s call center at 612-543-2500.

Correction: The story has been updated to note that Northpoint still conducts in-person appointments.

About Abeni Hill

Abeni Hill is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at ahill@spokesman-recorder.com.

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