St. Joseph Health brings community groups together to work on solving High Desert problems | St. Mary Medical Center

VICTORVILLE — About 100 people from various High Desert nonprofits, churches and community groups gathered at Victorville’s Activities Center on Monday night to learn about the St. Joseph Health Community Partnership Fund’s Intersections Initiative and to form a coalition for change.

Kevin Mahany, director of advocacy and healthy communities for Providence St. Joseph Health, moderated the two-hour-long program, which also reviewed key prevention frameworks and resources to guide strategy and planning for Intersections collaboratives.

In an earlier email to the Daily Press, Mahany said St. Joseph Health and St. Mary Medical Center “wish to start a conversation with willing community partners about prevention. This focus requires partners to advocate for pressing community problems ... including issues of crime, homelessness, etc. Rather than start new or expand existing programs serving people through education, this work aims to pass policy or make organization change to reduce the frequency or burden of the problem.”

Joining him in the process Monday night were Sandra Viera of Prevention Institute and Jason Lacsamana, a program officer for the Community Partnership Fund for St. Joseph Health.

“Tonight’s conversation is about a different approach to addressing the things that are plaguing us,” Mahany told the group. He added that the Prevention Institute, based in Oakland but with an office in Los Angeles, has a very different way of addressing issues, but that it is a powerful approach.

Lacsamana said the Intersections Initiative is essentially a grant provided by the St. Joseph Health Community Partnership Fund. However, the way the money is used is different than most grants.

“It’s not just throwing grant money at it, but taking an upstream approach,” he said. “You can tackle more (issues) that way.”

A healthier High Desert is the goal of the program, though that doesn’t just mean ensuring people have access to fresh produce, doctors, insurance or exercise regimens. A healthier High Desert means reducing crime and homelessness, improving wages and local wealth, increasing access to housing, planning more parks and open space, ensuring clean air, water and soil, and advocating for the arts.

“We need to be part of the policy-making process so we can turn things around,” Vierra said. “Our call to action, or opportunity, is to move upstream and get to the root of the problem.”

Lacsamana said the grant, the amount of which has not been announced and largely will depend on what the coalition chooses to do, will be funded by St. Joseph Health Community Partnership Fund for 2018-2020, but it’s not a competitive process. Most of what’s done in year 1 will be planning. “It’s what this community wants it to be,” he said. “Where do we start to get to that state of health?”

“We don’t have all the answers right now; this is very much a step-by-step process,” Mahany said. “It’s up to us.”

A mix of regularly scheduled meetings and webinars will be planned, Lacsamana said. As community groups embrace the program, the coalition will work with other stakeholders to bring about the change necessary to improve the High Desert.

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