A hero’s last day

In the four years of writing NewsCut, I’ve only encountered a conflict of interest once. It was this post — the story of a couple forced into homelessness because of a health crisis. They were my wife’s “clients.” She’s a “health care navigator” for an innovative program called the East Metro Crisis Stabilization Program, founded by HealthPartners and Regions Hospital in 2002 “to address the unmet needs of adults who experience a mental health crisis.”

My wife, Carolie, and the people who work in the program, were the answer to the prayers of the most desperate people among us, people who were in no position to navigate the byzantine world of human services and health care in Minnesota. Its goal was what everyone said they wanted: early intervention and help to prevent high costs later.

For years, she’s come home with stories of the people she helped — saved, really — one at a time. In the morning, she’d pick up the homeless, mentally-ill teen who’d been sexually abused, and get her health care, food, and a home by nightfall, for example. The program team then focused on long-term help.

When she told her stories, I’d confide my inadequacy by saying, “I wrote a blog today.”

When the bureaucrats slammed the doors in the face of people who needed a hand (and they did, often by ignoring the rights and rules they knew the downtrodden wouldn’t know), she knew all the angles to open them again. She was the Radar O’Reilly for the helpless.

“I’m off to do battle with the forces of evil,” she’d joke when she left the house each day.

Dakota, Ramsey, and Washington counties, the Department of Human Service, social service groups all joined the program. Other counties in the state wanted to know how she — and they — did it because it made so much sense, got help for the most vulnerable people few cared about, and saved money in the process.

Today, she went to work the way she always does, a little mischief in her heart, a plan to help people who need help, and a smile on her face, even though it’s the last day she’ll have the job.


Officials pulled the plug on the program and the “mobile crisis team” and it closes it down today.

They are the heroes who walk among us, make a difference, and deserve a few minutes of recognition for the work they did in relative obscurity.

They’re the people who gave a damn about someone other than themselves.