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La Clínica’s behavioral health services having an impact

La Clínica’s behavioral health services having an impact

At Vesper Society, we believe that a healthy community is vital for a just society. For 45 years, La Clínica de La Raza (La Clínica) has been on the forefront of developing and delivering linguistically and culturally responsive health services to underserved communities in California’s Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano Counties. In 2012, a survey showed that 67% of all clients at La Clínica, a non-profit Federally Qualified Health Center, are at risk of or show symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, domestic violence, substance abuse, and pain. Further, in East Contra Costa County, La Clínica Oakley’s clients are predominantly Latino and either uninsured or insured by Medi-Cal, leaving them without access to services they need to treat these common ailments and issues. With funding and support from Vesper Society, La Clínica Oakley is addressing these challenges by integrating behavioral health into primary care. One behavioral health provider explains why this work is so important. “Helping my clients make seemingly simple calls is such a huge burden lifted off their shoulders, linking them to appropriate resources, processing traumatic events like witnessing a family member being killed, helping people resolve marital discord, building someone’s self-esteem, helping them overcome fears. It’s so rewarding!” As of September 2016, the behavioral health program has logged over 1,100 appointments with La Clínica clients. In another part of Northern California, La Clínica is improving the health and lives of students at East Oakland’s school-based Havenscourt Health Center. In addition to the unique challenges that surface during adolescence, students here frequently experience stressors such as intergenerational poverty, neighborhood violence, and/or food insecurity. Each of these can have lasting and wide-ranging impacts on overall health and contribute to high rates of trauma, grief, stress, and anxiety. As La Clínica’s Havenscourt Health Center leads the way towards a... Read More

Strengthening Youth Voices in the Imperial Valley

Strengthening Youth Voices in the Imperial Valley

Vesper Society is dedicated to long-term solutions that help communities help themselves. In the Imperial Valley, Vesper Society partners with Renaissance Journalism to empower youth to tell their own stories, in their own voices, as a way to visualize a better future and promote positive social change. (At Left: Adalberto Lopez, Brawley Union High School, sets up video camera.) At its first Youth Voices Digital Institute this June, 10 high school students traveled 600 miles north to take part in a week-long crash course in multi-media journalism at San Francisco State University. Most of the students are of Latino heritage, so the program is designed to help them recognize the value of their cultural backgrounds and to utilize the bilingual reality that exists in the Imperial Valley. The students were sent out on assignments, such as interviewing San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, covering an Oakland A’s baseball game and meeting with the staff of El Tecolote, a bilingual newspaper serving the Mission District. Their 12-hour days were jam-packed with video lessons, interviews with community leaders, daily deadlines and countless hours of computer work to produce stories about their experiences. By the end of the week, each of the students produced a video story about their experiences. The stories were screened during an emotional graduation ceremony that was broadcast over the Internet so that their families and friends could watch from their homes in Imperial County. With this intensive experience under their belts, the students can return to their respective schools and help teach other students the power of storytelling. Local journalists will continue to work with the students. As the program progresses during the regular school term, you can expect more students to start posting their stories. Young people will actively engage their community with new communications tools that can... Read More

Interfaith Education for the 21st Century

Interfaith Education for the 21st Century

Rooted in the Lutheran tradition, Vesper Society understands we have our own faith and spiritual traditions that call us to serve. In the 21st century we need to add another layer – that of interfaith understanding and interfaith literacy – for in order to serve well in a global and local context, we must understand the traditions and values of others. The Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) prepares women and men for ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church. Vesper Society support enabled Dr. Rose Aslan from California Lutheran University to teach Major World Religions with Dr. Moses Penumaka, Director, TEEM. Dr. Penumaka states that theological education equips us to analyze our cultural context critically and enables us to seek understanding and relevance of faith so we can participate creatively in our pilgrimage of life in supporting, sustaining and preserving God’s whole creation. For the past four years Vesper Society has supported Interfaith Allies at the California Lutheran University (CLU) and with CLU’s merger two years ago with PLTS in Berkeley, Vesper Society extended its interfaith support to PLTS. Vesper Society believes in a simple idea: a just society begins when everyone is well and respected as a human being. By being in service to others, our work facilitates change and uplifts people, organizations, and... Read More

Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo receives telehealth award

Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo receives telehealth award

The rural southeastern desert of Imperial County has one of the highest diagnosed rates of diabetes in California. For people suffering from the condition, one key risk is the onset of blindness. Early detection is critical. At the heart of this rural region is Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo (Clinicas), a nonprofit dedicated to providing direct access to affordable, comprehensive, quality primary and preventive health care for high-risk and underserved residents, all in a manner consistent with their dignity and identity. Until recently, screening for blindness associated with diabetes required that patients be referred to an ophthalmologist for detection, and most patients were often seen after symptoms were noticeable, which makes treatment more challenging. For some, this also meant long travel and cost to find a specialist. With support from Vesper Society, in the fall of 2015 Clinicas launched a new program in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley that uses telemedicine technology to provide access to health assessment, diagnosis, intervention, consultation, supervision and information across distance. Using a digital retinography system, a camera takes images that are sent to the specialists at the university, who in turn give a prognosis in 24 hours. Patients can have the vision screen test right there at Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo during their visit. From an average of 20 retinal screens per month in early 2015, Clinicas is now averaging 120 screens per month by using two cameras that are rotated between six clinics. Because of increased utilization, Clinicas is working with California Health and Wellness and EyePacs to obtain a third retinal camera. Key to the success of developing a thriving telehealth program is allocating sufficient dedicated staff resources to support the program. To this end, with support from Vesper Society, Clinicas hired a full-time telehealth manager in 2015.... Read More

Remembering Melvin D. George (1936-2016)

Remembering Melvin D. George (1936-2016)

To put faith into action in the secular world and to explore the natural habitat of 17 species of penguins – Mel George persistently pursued these activities much to the admiration of his colleagues and friends. Mel was a mentor to many students throughout his academic career and found joy in the music of Mozart. Mel was active on the Vesper Society board of directors since 1999 and served as a corporate member since 2004. His keen intellect and ability to speak on a broad range of topics from a place of thoughtful observation was valued by all. Born on February 13, 1936, in Washington, D.C., Mel became active in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as an undergraduate at Northwestern University. There, he and his wife Meta, were first introduced to the Lutheran theologian Joseph Sittler, the man who would become his mentor and friend and whose life in ministry the couple worked tirelessly to archive for future generations. It was Sittler’s teachings that Mel turned to for inspiration during his long career as a university administrator, as president of St. Olaf College, a private Lutheran college in Minnesota, and twice as interim president of the University of Missouri. Mel took to heart Sittler’s teaching on the role of Christians in protecting the environment, something the theologian believed was a mandate from God. Mel’s fondness for penguins, a modern-day ‘canary in the mines’ for climate change, led to Mel and Meta’s travels around the world studying the mostly endangered species. Mel died on April 25, 2016, at his Columbia, Missouri home. His long-time friend Bill Bondeson said it was appropriate that Mel died on World Penguin Day.  Mel was laid to rest at Holden Lutheran Church in Kenyon,... Read More

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