The Home Visitor program was created in 1993 with a federal grant through the Older Americans Act through the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission and the Area Agency on Aging. Staff at Bigfork Valley Hospital, Clinics and Communities, including Donna Schaar and Cindy Brummer, Marian Barcus at Itasca County Health and Human Services, Lorna Mix at Northland Counseling Center and Cathy Righino of ElderCircle, were instrumental in obtaining funds to address the need for seniors to get help with mental health and other issues. Seniors were reluctant to admit that they were experiencing depression, anxiety and other mental health troubles. They were not asking for help and were going without services. Part of the program was developed to address the stigma that seniors faced surrounding mental health and to educate seniors and the community on issues facing the elderly.
Phil Solem and Cindy Brummer were hired to develop the program and as the first Home Visitors. The program was based on a simple concept, to visit seniors in their home and help them get the services they needed. As the program evolved, it was expanded to help seniors address all issues, not just mental health, as it was also other problems like inadequate income, insufficient help in the home, lack of transportation, isolation and more, that were causing the anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. Cindy Stapleton was hired in 2002 when Solem retired, and has worked for the program ever since.
After 17 years of service, Stapleton retired on March 1 and after 26 years of service, Brummer will retire on May 31. The torch has been passed to Patti Molzen and Stephanie Jerry, who will now be available to visit seniors, age 60 and older, in Itasca County.
The service is free of charge thanks to generous support of funders such as the Blandin Foundation, Itasca County Health and Human Services, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, United Way of 1,000 Lakes, IMCare, the Itasca County Health Fund, Bigfork Valley, Townships, individuals and many others. The program has also been funded through the years by the Itasca County Committee on Aging, the Northland Foundation, Lake Country Power Round Up, North Itasca Electric Round Up, Minnesota Power Foundation, the Henkel Foundation, Bigfork Valley Foundation, Grand Itasca Foundation, and others. The program would not be in existence today without the support of all of these organizations.
Molzen, who will be covering southern Itasca County, can be reached at 218-256-9701. Jerry, who will be covering northern Itasca County, can be reached at 218-259-0351. The website can be found at www.homevisitor.org
There will be an Open House welcoming and introducing Molzen and Jerry and bidding farewell to “the Cindy’s” Friday, May 31 from 2-5 p.m. at the Active Living Center at the YMCA in Grand Rapids. The public is invited to attend.