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Inspiring Conversations with Gerilyn Hausback of myHealth for Teens & Young Adults

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gerilyn Hausback.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
myHealth for Teens & Young Adults is a 501c3 non-profit organization committed to providing healthcare and education services for adolescents and young adults. myHealth’s mission is to improve the health of our community by providing health services and information that support all teens and young adults in making responsible and well-informed decisions. myHealth’s vision is that one day all young people will be educated and empowered to make responsible decisions regarding their health and relationships.

myHealth began in 1971 when a group of local health care providers, school professionals, law enforcement, church officials, and high school students came together to address the increase in unplanned pregnancies and the emergence of sexually transmitted infections among the youth population in the Excelsior area. In February of 1972, West Suburban Teen Clinic opened its first clinic with one full-time nurse, a Board of Directors, 125 volunteer nurses, 30 volunteer lab technicians and 20 volunteer physicians. Over the years we have expanded our services beyond the medical clinic to include Mental Health services and Educational Programs. myHealth partners with school districts, community organizations and coalitions to meet the growing needs of young people and their families in the areas we serve. In 2012, we changed our name to myHealth for Teens & Young Adults to reflect these changes.

For 50 years, myHealth’s Clinic-Based Programs have offered comprehensive, preventative and youth-focused medical services. myHealth is the only provider of subsidized, confidential adolescent-focused healthcare in an area larger than 1,200 square miles. In 2021, myHealth provided more than 1,100 clients with low cost medical services in 4,200 visits. Our primary services include reproductive healthcare, general medical care, asthma care, vaccinations, and sports physicals, in addition to providing services to meet other adolescent needs. myHealth serves clients primarily at our Hopkins clinic, open five days a week, including one evening until 8PM and on Saturday.

myHealth’s Community Education Program provides educational presentations to school-age youth and young adults, parents, community members and professionals in over 100 separate locations. In 2019, myHealth’s outreach educators presented information and provided resources to nearly 1,000 local parents and community members on a variety of topics including how to better communicate with their children and teens. Along with parents, more than 16,000 students received educational presentations in small and large group settings on pregnancy prevention, healthy relationships, decision-making, and other health topics. In addition to large group presentations, our staff members facilitate small multi-session youth development groups to intensively work with the most at-risk young people. Topics addressed in the curriculum include healthy relationships, teen pregnancy prevention, stress management, depression, anxiety, and other emotional and behavioral concerns identified by youth. Note: Due to the CV19 pandemic, education outreach in 2020/2021 was dramatically different than historical outreach and numbers for these two years are not comparable to previous years. In 2022, we continue to offer both in-person and virtual education outreach.

myHealth’s Becoming Program provides health services, education, support, and assistance to pregnant and parenting teens and young adults, ages 12-26, who often have nowhere else to turn for assistance. The program is facilitated by myHealth public health nurses who provide home visits and prenatal classes focused on increasing positive child outcomes and parental self-sufficiency skills. Clients also participate in classes and one-on-one meetings to set personal self-sufficiency goals. In 2021, myHealth provided 20-25 pregnant and parenting young women with 280 one-on-one home visits, group classes, and case management.

myHealth’s Mental Health program provides low-cost or no-cost counseling, education and outreach services to youth and young adults ages 12-26 in our clinic, in schools and in community settings where at-risk youth live. Our therapists provide counseling services at the Hopkins clinic by appointment and are available to see walk-in clients five days a week, during all clinic hours, including one evening and on Saturday. Additionally, we provide mental health counseling weekly at the St. Louis Park High School and at Hope House in Chanhassen. Our therapists provide group therapy and outreach in the communities we serve, including in schools and in many other locations as requested. In 2021, myHealth provided more than 1,800 individual and group counseling sessions, provided community outreach and education to community members and completed virtual presentations to participants in the communities we serve. Note: Due to the CV19 pandemic, many counseling sessions were provided virtually in 2021, although some clients continued to come into the clinic for therapy. Currently, myHealth continues to offer a hybrid of both in person and virtual counseling sessions based on client needs.

myHealth serves a large geographic area spanning Hennepin, Scott, and Carver counties, primarily from our clinic location in Hopkins. Our programming serves youth and teens, including pregnant and parenting teens and uninsured and low-income young adults ages 12-26. In 2021, myHealth provided nearly $965,000 in uncompensated care for the young people in our community who need it most. myHealth is unique in the variety of adolescent-focused services offered under one roof, including medical care, outreach and education, mental health, and youth development. Nearly 100% of our clients fall at or below 250% of the national poverty guidelines. We have a sliding scale fee schedule for all clients, but never turn anyone away for inability to pay. In 2021, approximately 25% of our clients used a sliding fee scale to pay for services and 40% utilize Medical Assistance or insurance assistance programs like MFPP (Minnesota Family Planning Program/Medicaid). The remaining 35% of our clients have third-party insurance coverage, but many cannot afford the out-of-pocket fees associated with high deductible plans. In 2021, 357 young people received care for free in our clinic.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
As with any small non-profit, myHealth has many struggles.

While we pride ourselves on low staff turnover, finding qualified licensed professionals in the last few years has been a challenge. We cannot pay competitive wages and most staff members work at myHealth because they are passionate about the organization’s mission. Our mental health program has been growing rapidly and hiring mental health professionals has been a huge challenge.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, myHealth is an essential community health provider which means that we never turn anyone away for healthcare services due to an inability to pay. While we take private insurance, many clients are seeking confidential reproductive healthcare and are unable to use private insurance. As a result, each year myHealth provides nearly $1million in uncompensated care.

Finding new funding sources and private support continues to be a challenge for myHealth. Over the last few years, many private foundations have narrowed funding focus areas which have then excluded myHealth for eligibility. myHealth does not have a large marketing budget to work with which further reduces our visibility for potential individual donations.

While myHealth continues to engage with parents and community partners in a positive and successful manner, there is still a stigma around sexual health education and reproductive healthcare for teens. We are fortunate to be in MN where our governor, and many other legislators, agree and support our mission. But these topics can be divisive and over the years we have had both good and not so good experiences with different constituencies.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
myHealth is an adolescent healthcare specialty clinic and our staff has extensive expertise working with young people ages 12-26. We do not want to be the best kept secret. Rather, we would like to encourage parents to think about moving their teens to myHealth sooner rather than later to ensure their young person is getting the information and resources they need to be most successful. Sadly, many pediatricians are not comfortable talking about sexual health in a manner that lends to the productive and informative conversation. Often, parents find myHealth when their teen is encountering puberty or relationship challenges, socialization difficulties, bullying, and engaging in risky behaviors such as alcohol use, vaping, and sexual activity. Further, myHealth welcomes all people. We ensure that youth with gender identity questions are provided resources and information that will enable them to better communicate with their caregivers and make informed decisions about their future. myHealth screens each and every clinic client annually for mental health concerns and make referrals as needed either to a myHealth counselor or to another agency.

What are your plans for the future?
myHealth is looking forward to celebrating our 50th anniversary on Saturday, June 4 with our community, partners, and clients.

Long term, we hope to find a permanent home in a stand-alone building in Hopkins. We are nearing capacity in our current location and as our mental health programs continue to grow, we are looking for additional space to meet client needs.

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