Mercy Health Network seeks to replicate GMH Family Resource Center statewide

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Kari Harbaugh, coordinator of the GMH Family Resource Center, spoke with Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Norris when he visited the hospital in February. Harbaugh feels strongly that her role at the FRC is to help people help themselves. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

By Molly Moser

In 2017, Guttenberg Municipal Hospital’s Family Resource Center assisted 83 families with food, 198 families with clothing, and 42 families with children at Christmas. Infant items such as strollers, car seats, and beds were given to 19 families, and household or hygiene products were provided 161 times over the course of the year. All this and more were done under the coordination of Kari Harbaugh with help from 23 adult volunteers and 15 student volunteers, who gave a total of 1,251 hours of their time. 

Mercy Health Network, newly affiliated with Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinic, took notice of the large impact the Family Resource Center makes on the lives of those in the area. “Mercy Health Network is keenly focused on transforming the health of our communities. In many instances across the state that means providing services that are not otherwise available. It also means creating access to services for those who would not otherwise have access,” said Mike Trachta, Senior Vice President of Network Affiliates at Mercy. "I believe the GMH Family Resource Center is a best practice for supporting the wide ranging needs of a community and I am actively seeking to replicate this model in other communities across the state.

“The Guttenberg Municipal Hospital Family Resource Center stands out as one of the few efforts across the state to serve as a convener of services offered by other organizations. By providing space to multiple agencies that could not otherwise secure permanent space, Guttenberg Municipal Hospital supports all of these agencies. By coalescing these services under one roof, the GMH Family Resource Center provides convenient access to services for clients that utilize multiple services. Finally, GMH strives to meet the needs of area residents by employing Kari Harbaugh – a truly amazing individual – to lead the effort.”

Harbaugh has positive things to say about the new team from Mercy. “They’re so supportive and they care so much,” she told The Press. Garnavillo resident Kay Vifian started the Family Resource Center nearly two decades ago with a focus on children from infancy to three years of age. The organization grew to include young families and people of all ages, and Harbaugh came on board nine years ago. In modeling another organization after the Family Resource Center, finding another Harbaugh – the organization’s sole employee – will be key. 

“Kari is the Family Resource Center,” says her supervisor, GMHC Director of Ambulatory Services Lisa Manson. “You can offer all kinds of services from this type of a program, but they will never be as successful as they are without someone with the compassion and dedication that Kari has.”

Harbaugh feels strongly that her role is to help people help themselves. The Family Resource Center (FRC) hosts Family’s Helping Hand, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the welfare of all families in Clayton County by promoting and coordinating positive family and community approaches. Harbaugh is able to use GMH offices in Edgewood and Garnavillo, as well as schools and county buildings, to help connect with more than 45 agencies, programs, groups and families the FRC works with. This network of resources meets health and wellness needs, address food insecurity, mental health and substance abuse issues, transportation, financial literacy, and safety. 

It takes a special person to connect all the dots. “Every day I am in awe of what Kari is capable of and is accomplishing in our community. She knows how to get things done by partnering with other agencies and utilizing volunteers,” said Manson. “Kari has her eyes and ears open to the community, and often identifies needs well before the rest of us have given it a thought. When there is a need for one of our patients, whether in the clinic, inpatient or emergency department settings, the first call is always to Kari and the response is always, ‘Yes, I can help.’”

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