As St. Joseph’s Hospital old signage comes down in St. Paul, Fairview’s Center for Community Health and Equity launches

In a sign of its further transformation the old St. Joseph’s Hospital signage was taken down Thursday and its successor, the “Fairview Community Health and Wellness Hub,” took another step forward.

Plans are for the wellness hub to take a statewide, research-based look at health disparities and promote new and existing health and wellness programs through partner nonprofits.

In recent months, St. Joe’s has had several missions.

Since January, the former ambulance bays at St. Joseph’s Hospital in downtown St. Paul served as staging areas for palettes of food ready to be distributed by the Sanneh Foundation, an effort organized hand in hand with Second Harvest Heartland and M Health Fairview.

More recently, Minnesota Community Care began filling in a floor of the old hospital space in advance of a soft opening for its new primary care clinic, which is scheduled to begin seeing patients in July. The federally-qualified health center plans to offer medical, dental and vision services, followed this fall by wide-ranging “gender care” targeted to transgender and gender non-conforming patients.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Diane Tran, the center’s director for Community Health Equity. “The signs have come off the building, and there will be more services coming online in the coming weeks.”

ESTABLISHED IN 1853

St. Joe’s, which was established in 1853 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet as the state’s first hospital, shuttered its emergency room and relocated most other services in December 2020, an M Health Fairview decision that continues to rankle some elected officials and St. Paul advocates.

Though certain mental health and addiction services remain, upwards of 10,000 patients have had to find new locations at which to seek primary care.

Nevertheless, Tran and others foresee a more targeted use of the former hospital building, which is gradually being converted into a hub for research and wellness programs.

The center plans to host community health discussions and engagement around key “social determinants of health” — the everyday factors that help people live longer, happier lives.

Among the priorities will be a “Food is Medicine” program that focuses on steering the vulnerable to food programs while educating low-to-moderate income groups around the state that healthy eating is tied to better health outcomes. “What are the things that have worked, and how do we scale these and expand them … to think holistically and at a greater scale about the need for food support?” Tran said.

ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS

Additional future programs will include Ebenezer Senior Living’s enhanced senior day services and skilled nursing units, as well a Fairview retail pharmacy.

The Fairview Community Health and Wellness Hub will officially launch this summer with a land ceremony hosted by the American Indian Family Center in St. Paul.

In July, Tran hopes to install a temporary exhibit on Native American land treaties assembled by the Minnesota Humanities Center.

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