The Northland Foundation and Essentia Heath Celebrate 30 Years of Partnership

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The Northland Foundation announces that Essentia Health has renewed funding support for the foundation’s Thrive Initiative for the coming year. Thrive is a program focused on infant and early childhood mental health launched as part of statewide demonstration project in 2007. The Northland Foundation and Essentia Health (then the Duluth Clinic) began collaborating in 1991 to support programs that benefit children, youth, and older adults in Northeast Minnesota. Over the past three decades, the two organizations have partnered together on initiatives aimed at building healthy communities and improving the quality of life for people of all ages, including community grants, youth leadership programming, and early care and education training.

“Essentia Health is an outstanding corporate citizen and partner,” said Tony Sertich, President, Northland Foundation. “The long-term relationship between our two organizations has been incredibly positive. Their support has enabled us to increase our reach and impact of programs throughout the region.”

A highlight of Northland and Essentia Health’s work together is the Thrive Initiative. The goal of Thrive is to support the healthy social-emotional development of young children by offering trainings on infant and early childhood mental health topics for professionals who are working with young children and families. Thrive provides a critical forum for information-sharing and relationship-building among more than 90 organizations, including county/tribal public health and social services, family-serving nonprofits, mental health and health care, higher education, early care and education programs, and more.

“This initiative offers an avenue that previously did not exist for professionals from across different sectors. The connections and learning that Thrive facilitates have led to closer collaboration, new and expanded programs, and – bottom line – better access to services and supports for families with young children,” says Zane Bail, Chief Operating Officer, Northland Foundation.

With ongoing support from Essentia Health, Thrive has piloted programs that have been embedded into community organizations. One example is the implementation of Circle of Security, an early intervention program for parents and children that is grounded in attachment theory—the concept that our earliest relationships, particularly those with parents, are vitally important to children’s wellbeing and mental health. Since 2014, Thrive has trained over 700 people in Circle of Security and helped implement Circle of Security Parenting Classes in local organizations such as the Lincoln Park Children and Family Collaborative, Essentia Health-Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center, Fond du Lac and St. Louis County Public Health & Social Services, and Duluth Public Schools.

Jen Jaros, Early Childhood Family Education Coordinator for Duluth Public Schools shared, “Through the inspiration, learning opportunities and on-going partnership of the Thrive Initiative, Duluth Public Schools Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) is able to provide outreach programs such as Child Care Mentoring, Family Friend & Neighbor support, and First Year Program (for first time parents of infants with limited support). Because of learning opportunities provided by Thrive, we were motivated to integrate ongoing Reflective Practice with our staff and committed to training all our ECFE teaching staff in use of the Circle of Security Parenting model with families. The training received through the Mothers and Babies Maternal Mental Health program, also a Thrive project, has given our home visits much more depth and focus, in turn helping parents of infants feel supported, cared for, and resourced.”

“One of the best, if not the best, opportunities that Thrive provides us is that it brings together a network of professionals with a common mission who can work together, learn from each other and then gently hand families off to each other as another trusted professional. That relationship is key to the success of working with families,” Jaros concluded.
Marlys Johnson, an infant and early childhood mental health consultant and longtime Thrive participant, says of Thrive, “Critical to quality care and education is the opportunity for staff to set aside regular opportunities for reflection: to think about their relationships to the children in their care, children's behavior and what that might be communicating and to their own response to children's behavior and their work.” She went on to state, “The Thrive Initiative supported an effort to provide and mentor Reflective Consultation to early care and education programs which has now become a standard of practice in those sites and elsewhere."

“We are thrilled to renew our support for the Thrive Initiative with a $25,000 grant,” states Tonya Loken, Community Relations Manager, Essentia Health. “At Essentia, our mission is to make a healthy difference in people’s lives, and partnerships like this allow us to promote health and well-being in the communities we’re privileged to serve. It’s another example of how we do more than care for the patients who come through our doors.”