NorthPoint Health and Wellness—a community asset during the pandemic and beyond

Courtesy of Facebook

Northpoint has served North Minneapolis since 1968 when Pilot City was established as one of 13 neighborhood service programs under the Johnson administrations’ War on Poverty. Its aim was to provide health and human services to people who lacked access to these services due to geographic, cultural and institutional racism.

At the time, the population of the North Side was 52,000. Participating agencies were charged with providing the community with accessible comprehensive social services to meet the needs of low-income and disenfranchised communities. As a demonstration or “pilot” project, Pilot City was designed to pave the way for future programs. 

The model combined public health and clinical medicine under one roof. It was noted at the time that “the problems of health are closely interrelated to the problems of poverty, education, housing, employment, human relations, and community disorganization.” These interrelated relationships were what the Pilot City Program was aimed at addressing. In addition, the early vision for community health centers was that they not only provided access to health care for poor communities, but were also centers for economic development, education and social justice.

NorthPoint sits on the shoulders of giants like Archie Givens, John Bluford, Richard and April Estes, GaryCunningham, and many others. It is now under the able guidance of CEO Stella Whitney-West and her team. NorthPointcontinues its original mission today.

NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center sets a standard of excellence in providing culturally responsive, integrated, holistic primary health and human services that strengthen our community and the lives of the people we serve. We are leaders in a shared vision of a healthy, environmentally safe, and economically stable, self-reliant community. The challenge to build a healthy community is now more apparent than ever.

The services we provide that are critical to the community are: human services and food shelf, medical services, clinical education, behavioral health services, dental services, clinic services, community education, and interpretive services.

The pandemic and the protest for racial equality, especially health disparities, stimulated by the murder of George Floyd has exacerbated the need for NorthPoint’s services. NorthPoint was one of the first clinics to provide COVID-19 testing in North Minneapolis.

It was one of the first to provide personal protective equipment so vital to protect its workers and those members of the community in nursing homes and group care. And its food shelf has never been so busy. Now I see it as a site for administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

To that end, we are in the process of expanding our services to meet that demand. The community we serve has grown dramatically. We see higher rates of poverty, unemployment, chronic health conditions, transportation barriers, and other negative health and economic outcomes than the rest of the city due to generational poverty and trauma that are the result of racism and its antecedent effects.

Seventy-three percent of the residents we serve  are People of Color, including 43% Black/African American; 14% Asian, primarily Hmong; and 8% Latinx. Many of those we serve are best addressed in a language other than English: 24% of community residents speak a language other than English, and 12% speak English “less than very well.”

We are committed to:

  • expansion of our full-service dental and specialty clinic;
  • expansion of our food shelf in the wake of many households that experience food insecurity and do not qualify for federal nutrition programs;
  • supporting and enhancing the building of a drop-in childcare center;
  • developing a spiritual, healing and wellness center to achieve healthier lives and create healthier communities through sustainable life-long changes in diet, physical activity, and personal health management;
  • and finally, integrating our grounds to enhance community collaboration, to share ideas, enhance community education, and provide a catalyst for community growth.

North Minneapolis and the Twin Cities are lucky to have such a resource in our community. I encourage the community to support these efforts as they will be extremely meaningful for our future.

David Hamlar MD, DDS is an assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Minnesota. He specializes craniofacial skull base surgery. He attended Howard University College of Dentistry (DDS) and Ohio State University (MD), and came to Minnesota for his fellowship in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. Besides medicine, he is a retired Minnesota National Guardsman achieving the rank of major general. His passion today is empowering students of color to achieve their dreams of entering the medical professions as well as other STEM-oriented careers.