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Expanded Health Commons will improve healthcare access for Cedar-Riverside neighborhood

The M Health Fairview Health Commons – Cedar Riverside has provided free, culturally sensitive healthcare for underserved groups since 2014. A new expansion will add more programs and staff to the site.
M Health Fairview Registered Nurse Asha Hassan will serve as a full-time staff member at the reopened M Health Fairview Health Commons - Cedar Riverside, where she will help expand primary care services to underserved communities in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis residents got their first look at the newly expanded M Health Fairview Health Commons – Cedar Riverside during a reopening event and free community flu shot clinic on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Located within the Riverside Plaza housing complex in Minneapolis, the Health Commons is a drop-in health and wellness center that has provided free healthcare services to the diverse and underserved Cedar-Riverside neighborhood since 2014. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, many of the programs at the Health Commons shifted to virtual-only services to reduce the spread of the disease.

Today marked the return of those free, in-person services – and much more. In addition to the previously available services, work is underway to develop:

  • A larger space for ongoing Health Commons programming, classes, and community events  
  • A connected clinical space where nurses and staff from M Health Fairview Clinic – Smiley’s will see patients through a new Community Nurse program, along with expanded virtual services 
  • New mental health and addiction programming, including a Peer Recovery Specialist 
  • An easily accessible outdoor space, ideal for community gathering and social distancing

“At M Health Fairview, we are committed to our partnerships with the diverse, multicultural communities that make this region great,” said Fairview Health Services President and CEO James Hereford, who attended the reopening event on Thursday morning. “The expansion of this Health Commons space will improve access to services we know make a difference to the health and wellness of a person, and a community.”

Our organization’s contributions to the community totaled more than $1 billion in 2019. Learn more about M Health Fairview's community impact.

The Health Commons mission is to provide free, culturally sensitive healthcare services based on respect, relationship building, hospitality, and collaboration in order to reduce health disparities and improve access to care. Programming at the Health Commons is supported by M Health Fairview in partnership with the Augsburg University Department of Nursing, East Africa Health Project, and People’s Center Health Services.

In 2019, there were 6,512 visits by community members to our Health Commons drop-in center in the Cedar-Riverside and at a similar site in North Minneapolis. The sites primarily serve East African and African American community members, including the Somali community in the Twin Cities. More than 80 percent of participants reported they are making positive changes toward a healthier lifestyle because of Health Commons services. 

The free flu shot clinic that took place on Thursday is an example of the direct impact the Health Commons can have in local communities that have traditionally faced many barriers to primary care. Through its MINI clinic program, M Health Fairview expects to administer roughly 7,000 free flu shots this fall at Health Commons and other community sites.

"M Health Fairview Clinic – Smiley’s and the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health are committed to providing outreach for our patients," said Family Medicine Physician James Pacala, MD, department head. "We are working with a wide range of stakeholders to support the residents of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. As part of the Smiley's care team, our full-time Health Commons nurse will provide care to community members while helping educate future health professionals."

“Successful collaborations like Health Commons are important steps to creating a healthcare ecosystem that is simpler, more culturally intelligent, more equitable and more accessible to all in our community,” Hereford said.