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Lakewood Health invests $4.6 million in community

The $4.6 million in total expenses attributable to community benefit is 4.4% of Lakewood’s total operating expenses.

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Lakewood Health System in Staples. Brainerd Dispatch file photo

STAPLES — Lakewood Health System contributed nearly $4.6 million in programs and services in 2020 to benefit the health of its local communities, according to the latest annual community benefit numbers reported to the Minnesota Hospital Association.

“Community benefit” refers to initiatives, activities and investments undertaken by tax-exempt hospitals to improve the health of the communities they serve. The $4.6 million in total expenses attributable to community benefit is 4.4% of Lakewood’s total operating expenses.

The report, which contains a set of standard measurements that determines the monetary value representing the hospital’s financial contributions and commitment to meeting the health care needs of its residents, provides a snapshot of the supported programs and services benefiting the community.

“I am proud to say our community benefits response rose to the challenge in 2020,” stated Lisa Bjerga, Lakewood chief financial officer, stated in a news release.

Lakewood provided access to health care for the uninsured and underinsured, funded community health improvement programs, donated to local programs and partnerships, advanced education and training for health care professionals, and subsidized the difference between the costs of care and the amount paid by government-sponsored programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

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“Lakewood increased its available funding to ensure more place-based investments could impact our neighbors and communities when they needed it the most,” Bjerga stated.

Lakewood’s community health department launched a new meal delivery program in September in response to COVID-19 to help alleviate hunger and support healing for patients. Lakewood has distributed a total of 22,729 meals to 1,203 adults and 718 children.

The program provided 10-14 prepared frozen meals to an individual diagnosed with the virus and demonstrated a concern about their ability to access and afford proper nutrition during their isolation and recovery period. All members in the household also received meals.

“As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the need in our communities has never been greater,” said Alicia Bauman, community health director, in the release. “We have delivered 6,489 meals in the last seven weeks alone.”

Nonprofit hospitals are required to report community benefits annually and to research community health needs every three years. Lakewood was doing this long before the federal requirement, according to officials.

“For more than eight decades, Lakewood has cared for its patients and invested in the people and partnerships that make us stronger together,” President and CEO Tim Rice stated in the release.

Lakewood is conducting its fourth community health needs assessment and seeking input from adults who live in Morrison, Todd or Wadena counties. The results will be used to direct the health system’s community benefit programs and help to prioritize services and investments through 2025. The survey tool can be found at: https://arcg.is/CPDuL0 .

To learn more about the current community health needs assessment and the strategic plan, visit lakewoodhealthsystem.com/community-health .

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