The vision of Cary Medical Center is, ‘We aspire to create a healthier community’. The hospital lived that vision during 2017 with major efforts in the areas of veteran homelessness and addiction.
The hospital and community partners, including the United Veterans of Maine (UVM), the Aroostook Mental Health Center and Recovery Aroostook (RA) have undertaken major initiatives. In November the UVM held the grand opening for the Dahlgren Skidgel Farm of Hope, which features four duplex cottages that will house eight homeless veterans. Also in November, a ribbon cutting was held for Allen’s Way, Aroostook County’s first sober living house.
Coming in February, RA will open Aroostook’s first ‘Recovery Center’ at the site of the former Threads of Hope Thrift Store in Caribou, leasing the building from Catholic Charities of Maine.
Kris Doody, RN, Cary CEO, said a major pillar of the hospital’s strategic plan is community citizenship.
“As the city’s largest employer and a major economic engine for this region,” said Doody, “we believe that we have a responsibility to address the serious challenges faced by the communities we serve. Given the number of homeless veterans and the problem of drug abuse, we felt it was important for us to engage community partners and join the effort to address these issues.”
John Deveau, president and CEO for the UVM and a combat veteran having served two tours in Iraq, has championed the development of a transitional housing program for veterans in Aroostook County. Deveau said the support of the hospital was critical to the speed at which the project was realized.
“The support of the hospital, both financially and organizationally, particularly during the early days of the project, really helped us to establish the credibility and structure we needed to get the Farm of Hope off to a good start,” said Deveau. “Once Cary was on board with their connections to the Veterans community we were on a roll. Since then, multiple other partners including WAGM Television, generous local donors, volunteers, businesses and so many others have really made the Farm a community focused effort.”
Ronnie Bosse, who chairs Recovery Aroostook, praised efforts to build a Recovery Community in Caribou.
“The progress we have made in such a short time has truly been remarkable,” said Bosse. “Sponsoring our community forum in May and hosting weekly meetings of the recovery group has really helped us to stay on task and we continue to move forward. The hospital has been a great partner in this important effort.”
The May forum was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Aroostook Health District Community Council and was coordinated by Cary Medical Center, the Aroostook Mental Health Center, Life by Design, the Power of Prevention Drug Free Communities Program and the Substance Use Prevention Services Grant.
In addition to these projects, Cary assisted in the grand re-opening of the Bread of Life Soup Kitchen in Caribou and continues to volunteer, preparing and serving meals once per month. Judy Holmquist, administrative assistant in the public relations office at Cary, said that the response from hospital staff and volunteers has been impressive.
“This is really a great service to the community and it’s a great team-building experience for all of us,” said Holmquist. “We all enjoy the project and it feels nice to be giving back and meeting such a critical need.”
The hospital sponsored, along with Pines Health Services, the Caribou Marathon, as well as: free cooking classes in cooperation with the University of New England SNAP Ed program; free blood pressure screening clinics thanks to a grant from the Maine Community Foundation and the Siruno Stroke Prevention Program; free carbon monoxide detectors and education with a grant from State Farm; and plant-based nutrition programs in Caribou and Fort Kent, in partnership with Northern Maine Medical Center. Staff also collected more than 500 units of blood at hospital-sponsored blood drives in cooperation with the American Red Cross, provided over 700 free flu vaccinations and offered 56 free Healthy You Programs attended by 2,468 participants.
Finally, the hospital worked to increase physical activity partnering with Town Square Media to promote the 100 miles in 100 days and 200 miles in 200 days Healthy You fitness challenges. Nearly 800 people participated in the combined projects.
Bill Flagg, director of community relations and development for the hospital, said improving the health of the communities served by Cary is just the right thing to do.
“It has always been part of Cary’s culture to promote a healthy community,” said Flagg, who has been at the hospital since 1979. “When I first came to Cary our theme was ‘Your Source of Wellness.’ That was odd for a hospital that has always been thought of as a place you go when you are sick. We have a much broader vision and a major focus on prevention.”
Cary is planning a number of similar events in 2018 and invites the community to contact the public relations office at 498-1112 to receive advance information or to visit carymedicalcenter.org.