Karen Organization of Minnesota A Partnership From the Beginning: KOM and M Health Fairview

The Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM) has partnered with M Health Fairview on many projects over the past 15 years, since the organization’s beginnings. Our partnership and history working with M Health Fairview has impacted the Karen community in several ways.

Some of the projects KOM and M Health Fairview have worked on over the years include health education workshops, vaccination clinics, and COVID-19 outreach. M Health’s Roselawn, Rice Street, and Bethesda Clinics were some of the first in St. Paul to hire Karen staff, which helped new arrivals feel more comfortable being able to speak to someone in their own language.

Flu shot clinic hosted by KOM in partnership with M Health Fairview at KOM’s old office in 2014.

As this year’s Platinum Sponsor at the KOM Gala, a representative from M Health Fairview shared with the audience:

“It is hard to summarize how M Health Fairview has impacted the Karen community[…]We were both founding partners in the Karen Chemical Dependency Collaboration, which has created the first Karen-specific addiction treatment and recovery programs in the country. We are now working with Fairview physicians to improve access to medication and treatment for Karen youth using opioids. And KOM is a founding partner in Fairview’s East Side Health and Wellbeing Collaborative, which addresses mental health and food access needs on the East Side.”

Other substantial past projects include when KOM, in collaboration with M Health Fairview and several other partners, performed over 5,000 free COVID-19 tests in the month of August in 2020. KOM and M Health Fairview’s Roselawn Clinic created the Postpartum Home Visit Program, which supported new mothers and connected them with the resources they need. Additionally, our Youth Chemical Dependency Program supports Karen youth struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol through referrals, prevention education, and supporting parents. Previously, many parents of youth struggling with addiction were mainly going to faith leaders for help.  The program has given concerned parents another source of expert support to rely on.

A meeting for organizing the Karen Chemical Dependency Task Force back in 2016 with representatives from KOM and M Health Fairview

Another vital role in the continuum of care are the culture brokers. In 2017, Lwepaw Nwe Kacher started as the first Karen Culture Broker, employed through M Health Fairview and placed at KOM. Over the years she has been a steady support for Karen individuals facing isolation, mental health challenges, and substance abuse. Just this year, our very own Lah Tha Pwee transitioned into a second Karen Culture Broker role. She brings to the role her background of studying social work and experience with youth and families.

COVID Testing Site in August 2020

Clara Tunwin, KOM’s Program Director for Community Health and Social Services, said Karen Culture Brokers “play an important role in the community connecting community members to services, resources, and guiding them through difficult situations.” 

Flu shot clinic hosted by KOM and M Health Fairview this past October.

According to Tunwin, KOM and M Health will continue to partner through the Culture Broker program and providing community flu shot and COVID clinics.

“Fairview has been a great partner, they respect us and listen to our concerns,” said Tunwin.

Overall, KOM and M Health Fairview’s long-standing partnership has helped bridge the gap between the Karen community and healthcare providers, ensure access to important health services, and make a positive impact.

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