Diabetes is a health risk with Pacific Islanders in Utah

Story and photo by JANICE ARCALAS

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Jake Fitisemanu Jr., chair of the Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition.

Type 2 diabetes is a health risk among Pacific Islanders in Utah. According to a Pacific Islander report done in 2011 by the Utah Department of Health,  the rate of Utah Pacific Islanders is at 13.7 percent. This is nearly double the statewide rate in Utah, which is at 6.5 percent.“The biggest risk factor for diabetes is being overweight or obesity which is a huge problem in Pacific Islanders,” said Dr. Kalani Raphael, a University of Utah associate professor of internal medicine, in an email interview. “Of course obesity is related to poor diet quality and low physical activity, so these factors contribute.”

According to the 2011 report, 63.6 percent of Pacific Islanders in Utah were considered obese. Researchers  defined obesity to be a body mass index of over 30. Poor diet and sedentary lifestyle are the main factors that contribute to Pacific Islanders getting diabetes, said Jake Fitisemanu Jr., chair of the Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition, in an email interview.

Rice is a common food that is in a Pacific Islander’s diet. Rice has lots of carbohydrates, which can spike blood sugars. “Rice is a huge one and is an unfortunate staple of the diet,” Raphael said. “Potato or macaroni ‘salad’ is another one and lots of processed foods.  I also suspect that there is a low proportion of fruits and vegetables.”

Many Pacific Islanders think that since their family members have diabetes there is nothing they can do about it. “My experience is that it is one of the toughest things to deal with. There is a lot of fatalism meaning that a lot of Pacific Islanders think that since their family members had diabetes that there is nothing they can do about it when there is a lot that can be done to lower their risk,” Raphael said. “Same thing for the complications like kidney failure. I hear a lot of people say that they don’t think they can prevent kidney failure because their family had it.”

One complication with Pacific Islanders who have diabetes is language barriers. According to the report, those interviewed in English had lower obesity rates than those interviewed in Tongan and Samoan. The Utah Department of Health also found that those interviewed in English were more likely to perceive themselves as overweight compared to Samoan and Tongan speakers. “Language barriers for providers that don’t speak the language or have access to an interpreter are an issue. Also providers who don’t understand the culture make it challenging,” Raphael said.

A traditional Polynesian diet wasn’t always like this. “The traditional Polynesian diet was plant-based, varied, and very healthy. This was a protective factor that was further strengthened by the very active lifestyle the ancestors lived. Fast forward to today, that healthy lifestyle and wholesome diet has been replaced by modern sedentary lifestyles and sugary diets that increase the likelihood of developing diabetes.” Fitisemanu said.

Resources are available to Pacific Islanders in Utah who have diabetes. “The Utah Department of Health’s Office of Health Disparities developed a brief video in English, Samoan, and Tongan languages that mention some overall health tips that can help prevent diabetes and promote overall wellness,” Fitisemanu said. “There is also a diabetes pamphlet in Samoan that the UDOH Diabetes program has published. Local health providers from our Pacific communities are also good resources, including Dr. Kalani Raphael, Dr. Liana Kinikini, Dr. Kawehi Au, Uaisele Panisi, [and] Karen Mulitalo.”

Raphael mentioned community resources such as the National Tongan-American Society, which assists with diagnosing diabetes and counseling. It is located at 3007 S. West Temple, Bldg. H, in Salt Lake City. Another resource is the American Diabetes Association of Utah, located at 986 W. Atherton Drive, Suite 220, in Taylorsville.

The report of the health needs of Pacific Islanders advises limiting sugary drinks to help control obesity, which is a factor that causes diabetes.

“Our communities need to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of diabetes so that they can try to reduce their risks and be able to identify diabetes early on, before serious complications occur,” Fitisemanu said. “Our families, social groups, and churches need to take more proactive roles in encouraging healthy living while providing support for those who seek treatment, and acknowledge and incentivize those who comply with treatment and make improvements. Apathy and normalization are the two worst enemies in this fight against diabetes. Because it’s so prevalent in some families and communities, it can become normalized and ‘accepted’ as an inevitable fact of life, and that notion is not only false but also incredibly dangerous to us as a community.”

Diabetes can be overwhelming but there is hope. “Diabetes is a complicated disease that requires a lot of self-care, but the motivated and informed patient can be successful,” Raphael said.

Why Pacific Islanders in Utah have trouble connecting with mental health care

Story and photo by ALEXANDRA OGILVIE

Most Pacific Islanders live in a clan-based family society, where the family unit as a whole is viewed as more important than the individual, said Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou, the executive director of Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR) in Salt Lake City. Family is so important that many Pacific Island languages don’t distinguish between “brother” and “cousin.”

However, this family-based support system often prevents Pacific Islanders from getting professional help with mental illnesses and domestic abuse.

Karson Kinikini, a Pacific Islander and a licensed professional counselor of mental health, said in an email interview, “As a tribal/family based culture, they may more naturally seek support from within their family system in non-clinical ways. Often times, the concept of counseling (going to talk to a stranger about personal things) seems like a foreign concept to a people who have learned to rely on each other. Polynesians are often LDS in Utah, and so they have another support system of the Church, who they will often talk to before reaching out to a stranger.”

While having a strong support system is key to good mental health, family members and clergy often aren’t trained to give mental health advice. This is generally OK when the problems are about having an unrequited crush, but can become problematic when a family member has an undiagnosed serious mental illness, Kinikini said.

One example of mental illness is depression. Depression can present in many ways other than feeling sad all of the time. In men, it can often show itself as aggression. “All types of mental health problems were positively associated with aggression perpetration,” according to a study in the Journal of Family Violence.

This is certainly not unique to the Polynesian community, but the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that Polynesian women are at the same risk for spousal abuse as are women in Somalia and Afghanistan.

Line drawing of sad people

A bipolar woman’s visual description of her illness. Used with permission.

One of the programs that PIK2AR offers is an anti-domestic abuse Pacific Island initiative. Feltch-Malohifo’ou said domestic abuse doesn’t end when families leave the islands and come to Utah. She said the family clan system also contributes to women not seeking help. “Women are expected to carry their share of the family burden.”

According to the Office of the Surgeon General, racism is a major barrier when it comes to getting mental health help. “Ethnic and racial minorities in the United States face a social and economic environment of inequality that includes greater exposure to racism and discrimination, violence, and poverty, all of which take a toll on mental health,” it stated. And for good reason, the office reported, “Their concerns are reinforced by evidence, both direct and indirect, of clinician bias and stereotyping.”

Along with overt racism, racial minorities tend to occupy the lower socio-economic echelons. Kaati Tarr, a Pacific Islander who is a licensed clinical social worker in Salt Lake City, said in an email interview, “In my opinion, it’s a combination of culture and socioeconomic status. Having insurance coverage helps, but still, the co-pay might be considered excessive, especially if paid weekly. $25 x 4 visits a month is $100 dollars that could be used to pay for food and higher priority basic needs.”

According to The Utah Health Department, “16.3% of PIs (Pacific Islanders) reported that someone in their household had been unable to receive needed medical care, tests, or treatments during the past year, usually due to financial barriers.”

Kinikini, the counselor of mental health, said money isn’t the only missing resource — mental health professionals often don’t have translators. “Services available in a native Polynesian language is very difficult to find access to. I, for example, am of Tongan descent but I do not speak Tongan. I have struggled to find native language speaking therapists to refer native language speaking clients to. Consequently, often the solution is to have a family member or friend translate. This can limit the effectiveness of the counseling process.”

Studies have been done on bridging this gap for other racial minorities, such as Latino and black communities. But, few data exist on Pacific Islander communities, so many families and mental health professionals are left on their own to determine best practices.

“The overall rates of mental disorder for many smaller racial and ethnic groups, most notably American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are not sufficiently studied to permit definitive conclusions,” the NIH reports.

Tarr, the local clinical social worker, said, “Unfortunately, I don’t have any additional resources to provide you with … that’s part of the issue, I think.”

But local Pacific Islanders like Kinikini and Feltch-Malohifo’ou are working toward closing that gap.

University of Utah launches Doctors Without Borders student chapter

Story and image by ANNA STUMP

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, is an international humanitarian organization whose mission is to expand accessibility of medical care for those affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from health care. These efforts include providing doctors, nurses, logistical experts, water and sanitation engineers and administrators to over 70 war-torn regions and developing countries across the globe.

Doctors Without Borders emphasizes “independence and impartiality.” The organization provides support to those in need regardless of political, religious and economic factors. Working as a private entity allows MSF to follow its own moral code and operate in any way it sees fit. Because MSF is a non-governmental organization, all of the services and operations are driven by the selfless work of volunteers.

Two of these volunteers are Julia Case and Kelsie Lee. The freshman roommates at the University of Utah are working toward bringing a student chapter to life on campus. Both women were exposed to the organization’s work at an exhibition that left them hungry to help in any way possible.

They attended MSF’s exhibition “Forced from Home,” which took place at the Salt Lake City Public Library in late September 2017. The interactive experience was designed to expose the realities of the global refugee crisis to those who attended. While walking through the exhibit, participants gained a closer look at some of the disturbing challenges faced by the 65 million asylum seekers displaced from their homes due to war and persecution.

FORCED FROM HOME

A tour guide leads participants through the exhibition and shares the hardships of traveling through the Mediterranean Sea.

During the tour, participants experienced what it would be like to gather essential belongings with dire urgency. The group had a 20-second time limit to determine which five items they would take with them on their arduous journey into the unknown. Constrained to only five items, participants were forced to decide which necessities were more crucial. For example, debating between a blanket and water or food and money. This activity gave participants a taste of what a refugee experiences while scrambling for necessities during a time of emergency.

Motivated to act

The exhibition emotionally impacted Case and Lee to the point of seeking ways they could lend their hands to MSF, despite neither of them having any medical knowledge.

“When our guide finished taking us through the exhibit, Julia and I were really eager to do something,” Lee said in an email interview. From here it gets a little blurry, but all I remember was spontaneously writing down that we wanted to start an MSF chapter at the U, and next thing I know we’re here, with the chapter expected here on campus at the beginning of next semester.” The student chapter should begin in the Spring of 2018.

MSF currently has student chapters on campuses across the country that work closely with the organization to unite students who are passionate about MSF’s mission to provide lifesaving care to those who need it most. MSF collaborates with each chapter, and provides the resources needed to plan memorable events such as fundraisers, map-a-thons, film screenings and Doctors Without Borders field staff presentations on campus.

Future goals

Both Case and Lee are hoping to hold up to four events in Spring 2018 semester. One event in particular is a “Walk 4 Water.” During this event, students will walk to raise awareness of the demand for clean drinking water in countries with limited access and help raise money to provide sterile water and drinking wells to developing countries in need.

For Kelsie Lee, fundraising walks are no foreign activity. She herself has participated in a Walk 4 Water and has helped organize a community-wide walk for charity. At the age of 10, Lee went on her first service trip to Uganda. On this trip, she witnessed the hardships faced by those who walk miles for water, struggle to find food and are exposed to sometimes fatal diseases such as malaria.

“Walking for water specifically is such a cool concept because it really puts into perspective the fact that women, men, and kids all around the world walk miles upon miles upon miles for water every day, and sometimes it’s not even clean water. When people come out and get involved in these walks, they are walking for those people,” Lee said.

The freshmen are also working toward having a field worker from MSF visit campus. The volunteer will speak with students and faculty about the organization’s current projects and share the various ways one can support refugees from home. Case is thankful for the opportunity the student chapter will present to students who want to help but have no idea where to start. “This club offers a unique experience of being part of a global organization, and we as students can help with pressing issues on the other side of the globe right from our own campus,” she said.

Both women are eager to further the reach of the MSF program through their projects at the U.

“Doctors Without Borders has been very open to allowing us to not only plan out our own ideas for fundraisers, but also giving us choices as to where the money goes. It could go anywhere from helping the refugee crisis, to medical needs, to water. The options are endless, which is why I’m so proud to get to be a part of something so awesome, that really just wants to help in any way possible,” Lee said.

 

No escape from danger: LGBT refugees fled to Kakuma Camp for their lives, only to be greeted with hostility

Story by KAYA DANAE

Photos by MBAZIRA MOSES and KAYA DANAE

Homophobia is pervasive in Kenya, and some LGBT refugees at Kakuma Camp say they have faced discrimination from fellow refugees and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) workers that has exacerbated living conditions in the overcrowded facility.

Mbazira Moses, a gay refugee currently living at the Kakuma Camp, said in an email interview, “I have been exposed to persecution and hostility ever since the time I arrived in Kakuma.”

Moses was assaulted and stabbed by a fellow refugee on Oct. 11, 2017. After reporting the incident to the police, Moses said nothing was done.

He claims he has been assaulted several times, but said police have never investigated. Instead of receiving help, Moses was jailed along with 18 other LGBT refugees who had peacefully protested their unfair treatment at UNHCR headquarters in Nairobi.

LGBT refugees peacefully protest at the UNHCR Headquarters in Nairobi.

After speaking with a lawyer, Moses was told to accept whatever charges were filed against him, as this was the only way he could expect assistance from UNHCR.

Established in 1992, Kakuma Camp is located in the northwestern region of Kenya. Ethiopian, Sudanese and Somali refugees fled their war-torn countries and came to Kakuma refugee camp, which is divided into four zones.

With an influx of new arrivals in 2014, Kakuma surpassed its capacity by over 58,000 individuals. The camp has expanded and currently holds 77,092 refugees, according to the UNHCR Kakuma informational pamphlet.

Moses said many of the staff at Kakuma Camp are homophobic and view the LGBT community as cursed. Individuals are not given the same opportunities as other refugees. They are not employable because of their sexual orientation and are not given proper medical treatment. Many medical centers refuse to serve them at all, he said, and if they are treated, they are often refused medication and treatment for HIV.

Moses Mbazira holds the LGBT flag in his tent at Kakuma Camp.

According to Moses and many other LGBT refugees living at Kakuma Camp, they face eviction due to homophobic neighbors, leaving them homeless in the camp. UNHCR has placed the LGBT community in a housing section next to the river, where they face flooding and mosquitoes. Many of the refugees have malaria and are not given the treatment they need. The homes themselves are just tents, not properly covered to protect from the rain.

Thirteen UNHCR employees stationed at Kakuma Camp were contacted about Moses’ allegations of mistreatment toward LGBT refugees in the camp. Only four responded, and they said they could not comment.

“Agony has brought action,” Moses said. “Many of the LGBT members who have been granted asylum and refugee status under UNHCR within Kenya, receive consistent persecutions and grief by the host community and other members living within the camp. We (LGBT Community) have articulated our concerns to UNHCR but have been overlooked. This has caused a need to call on UNHCR to permit us a convention letter that will grant us a fair free movement to seek asylum in a country where we reserve the same rights as other refugees regardless of our sexual orientation.”

Barnabas Wobilaya, 36, is a gay Ugandan refugee and HIV/AIDS activist who was resettled in Salt Lake City. He fled Uganda and arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, in January 2015. Wobilaya became an HIV/AIDS activist in Uganda because he had two siblings who lost their lives to HIV. Because of his activism, he was exposed as a gay man in the newspapers, lost his job, and had to move around a lot for his own safety.

“When you get to Kakuma, there is no housing. You arrive at the camp, and they give you land. You build your own house. They give you poles and a tent to put up yourself, some people use iron sheets for their roof,” Wobilaya said.

“The LGBT people are always the last people to get the services they need, always,” he said.

“Their cases are not being worked on. They have been there for years. Three years, five years. Cases of LGBT refugees are supposed to be fast because their need is so immediate. We suffer. I know people that have been in Kakuma since I arrived in Kenya that have still never seen their files. They don’t know what’s going on. Nothing happens.”

The resettlement process is in the hands of the Government of Kenya. Because Kenya still maintains largely homophobic outlooks  and policies, many LGBT folk are treated as criminals rather than asylum seekers and refugees.

“When I was in Kenya, I could not find a job,” Wobilaya said. “Kenyans know that many refugees from Uganda are gay. They are very homophobic. You go to the store to buy something, and they say ‘Uganda?’ and then they kick you out. You cannot buy things, if you can’t speak Swahili they will not give you service. They then say ‘these are gays’ in Swahili and you know to leave or else you will be beaten.”

LGBT refugees attempt to drain the water from the river that flooded their tent in Kakuma Camp.

Wobilaya was evicted from homes three times because his landlords discovered his sexual orientation. Many LGBT people are forced to live in Kakuma because landlords refuse to rent to them in Nairobi.

The UNHCR used to give refugees a stipend of 6,000 Kenyan shillings, which is about $60 U.S. per month. With that, they were supposed to pay their rent, medical bills, transportation cost and phone bill.

“Today they give them $45, but you have to pass an assessment that your living conditions are horrible, many people have to live in one room, a lot end up on the streets as sex workers so they can afford to live,” Wobilaya said.

“Now that I am in the States it is difficult to find ways to help. They tell me ‘we are dying’ and I can’t do much. After I pay my rent and bills I send my leftover money to my LGBT friends in Kenya. So I ask, let us help these people. Let’s fundraise. Help them to buy food,” Wobilaya said.

At Kakuma camp, World Food Program ( WFP) in partnership with UNHCR provides food distribution (maize, peas, flour, cooking oil, soap, salt, porridge) and some essential items like soap and toothpaste to every refugee within the camp.

However, the food supply has been continually decreasing, Wobilaya said, leaving LGBT refugees at a disadvantage since they are unable to find work and buy their own food. UNHCR has not created a system to notify LGBT members about their case progress levels, and they feel they cannot turn anywhere for support.

Wobilaya encourages the  LGBTQ community in Utah to help. “We in the LGBT community are one big family, so advocate for your brothers and sisters; that’s the only thing I ask.”

You can contact Tayyar Sukru Cansizoglu, the UNHCR head of sub-office in Kakuma, at cansizog@unhcr.org and you can donate to the LGBT Kakuma refugee community through a fundraiser established by a Salt Lake City LGBT activist.

 

 

 

 

 

Refugees in Utah face poor nutrition; doctors and farmers prescribe collaborative response

Story and photo by DANNY O’MALLEY

A national program that provides fresh produce to refugee patients in need of nutrition has arrived in Salt Lake City. VeggieRx, also known as the Fruits and Vegetables Prescription project (FVRx), empowers doctors to prescribe wholesome nutrition in the form of fresh farmers market produce to refugees at risk of malnutrition or other health concerns like diabetes.

At St. Mark’s Family Medicine, in the Millcreek area of Salt Lake City, patients receive prescriptions for $10 toward fresh produce. They take the prescriptions just down the street to the Sunnyvale Farmers Market, to be used up to four times. The market also accepts SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which can double the amount of vegetables carried home by refugee patients. The Sunnyvale Farmers Market, an endeavor of the International Rescue Committee through its New Roots farming initiative, is open on Saturday afternoons from July to October every year.

Refugees who are newly resettled face a myriad of challenges, but nutrition and diet are often the most pressing.

Ze Min Xiao, director of the mayor’s Office of New Americans in Salt Lake County, said even the idea of a supermarket can be a challenge to newcomers. Often when a refugee arrives, “suddenly they’re buying processed food, and it’s more expensive and not as good for you. Obesity and lack of vitamins are a problem,” she said.

The transition to the American diet and food culture can be jarring for some. Many refugees struggle to find food they recognize. Familiar ingredients may grow plentifully in other regions around the world, but varieties here in Utah may be nonexistent or prohibitively expensive.

For example, according to cost of living data collected by Numbeo.com, fruit and vegetable prices are anywhere between two and 10 times greater in the United States than in Syria and Somalia. And that’s just for ubiquitous produce like apples, oranges and potatoes — anything remotely exotic is exponentially less likely to be carried by local grocers.

Because of programs like VeggieRx, farming initiatives like New Roots and medical outreach through St. Marks, the avenues to help alleviate issues of nutrition and unfamiliar culture are opening wider. The innovative practice of prescribing access to vegetables packed with nutrients is a direct result of addressing the needs of the refugee community, Xiao said. “We can identify some answers they bring as New Americans,” she added.

Similar programs are already coming to fruition all over the country. VeggieRx was started by Wholesome Wave, an organization centered on increasing accessibility to nutrition and health resources. First piloted in Maine and Massachusetts in 2010, the success on the East Coast has allowed Wholesome Wave to partner with organizations in 48 states as of this writing, as well as Washington, D.C., and the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners area.

Fiona McBride, senior communications associate for Wholesome Wave, has been with the organization since 2014. “We’re really proud of our growth and impact,” she said in a phone interview. “In 2015, we helped about 150,000 people. In 2016, we reached over 550,000.” She expects that growth trend to continue.

The benefit doesn’t stop at the limit of the prescription value either. Refugees and other low-income families are more likely to buy lots of veggies once they get a little, giving an economic boost to the farmers at the market. “We’ve seen that for every $5 in vouchers, they spend an additional $15 on fresh produce,” McBride said. “Our case workers have said that the families can’t believe what they’re getting.”

Patients in greatest need of nutrition are often children. “It’s really powerful to tackle and prevent problems with diet and health starting young,” McBride said.

St. Mark’s Family Medicine is a program with the Utah Healthcare Institute. Diane Chapman, a nurse practitioner involved with the program, said the link between diet and chronic disease can’t be emphasized enough. The majority of patients she sees are refugees. “It’s my primary professional focus and passion,” she said in a phone interview. Often, she said, clinicians have “little context” for a diet that refugee patients might be familiar with. “Dietary change can be difficult for anyone.”

The VeggieRx pilot provided the opportunity for refugee families to align their diet with food similar to that of their countries of origin, at little to no cost. The pilot ran from September to October 2017, through the end of the farmers market season. Chapman said the program goal was to enroll at least 50 patients, which was met, and now the data can be assessed by the Utah Department of Health.

According to a report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, healthcare costs related to diet are over $950 billion a year. This is especially dangerous for low-income families including refugees.

Fiona McBride said that’s what the VeggieRx program is all about — spending less on healthcare by treating preventable diseases through nutrition. “We’re really trying to show the power of produce to improve personal and environmental health. The money we save in avoiding extremely expensive health problems could transform the country,” she said.

Utah’s pilot of the program is in its infancy, so the exact impact is yet to be seen at the local level. But it has a huge pool of organizers invested in seeing it thrive. The International Rescue Committee, the Utah Department of Health, Salt Lake County and St. Mark’s Family Medicine have made good headway together. Thanks to everyone involved, refugees can eat healthy and avoid burdensome long-term healthcare costs.

Keep your eyes peeled for updates from the Utah Department of Health in early 2018.

Roy City gets “facelift” in hope of growth

Story and slideshow by BRITTNI STRICKLAND

Visit the city of Roy and meet some local business owners.

Roy City, populated with 37,733 individuals, is commonly known for its strong community and hometown feel, which can be especially found in local businesses in the area. However, popular chain businesses like CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens and WinCo Foods have begun to take the focus off of local businesses and in a different direction.

At the recent city council meetings at the Roy City Office courtroom and in speaking with city council member John Cordova, it is apparent that the council would like larger corporations moving into the town of Roy.

“You never want to chase away the small guys because the small guys are huge,” Cordova said. “They’re local and they’re loyal. But on the other hand any homeowner in Roy, if we don’t continue to bring in big businesses, then supporting the city ends up on the resident’s back and that’s not good.”

While sitting at the kitchen table in his Roy home, Roy City Mayor Willard Cragun said the city started a “facelift” in April 2015 on 1900 West in Roy to help take some of the pressure of supporting the city off of the residents’ shoulders.

“What I have planned for Roy City is re-establishing Roy City’s business community, so that we can provide local services to the residents of Roy. So, if you want to buy a pair of shoes, you can buy a pair of shoes in Roy City, or a dress, or pair of pants, you should have a shop you can go to in Roy,” he said.

Cragun noticed in 2000 that the majority of local businesses were moving out of town as developers moved in. “Over the years those ma and pa businesses have left Roy City. It’s been very, very hard to get them to re-establish in Roy,” he said. Once the developers established in Roy, the 25-year leases through the Redevelopment Agency expired and prices skyrocketed, making it hard for locals to afford rental rates. Another problem the town faces with bringing locals back, is the city does not have open ground for locals to build on. Consequently, they must purchase buildings from developers, tear them down and rebuild, all of which is an expensive process.

The city has no control over the developers and what type of businesses they choose to lease to. “The developers have all the rights and the city has no say,” Cragun said. Roy City only has control of business when the City Council approves business licenses.

Councilman Cordova said, “A lot of spots in our town need fixing, everyone sees it.” The council has approached merchants on 1900 West and heard outpouring support for a plan to clean up the downtown area in a mission to attract larger markets to Roy City.

Cordova and Councilman Brad Hilton are currently working on economic development of the city and plan to visit Las Vegas in May 2015 to meet with economic planners to get ideas for the facelift. Cordova mentioned the idea of the city approaching the local Harmons to get its help in spurring the development of the entire city. He mentioned how Harmons has helped spark growth at Farmington Station and in downtown Salt Lake City.

The council has been approached and has begun focusing on plans to have a movie theater come into town where Albertsons store was located on the corner of 5600 S. 1900 West in Roy. The building has been vacant for almost 13 years, Cragun said. Traffic from adjacent towns like West Point, Hooper, Clearfield and from the freeway would be brought into the city benefitting everyone. Cragun said the city needs something to draw people to Roy and hopes that a movie theater would do just that similarly like it did for the city of Ogden when Megaplex 13 was built.

The thought of having larger corporations come into the city of Roy has caused mixed reviews from local businesses including Jessie Jean’s Coffee Bean’s Homestyle Café, Sacco’s Produce and Roy Winegars pharmacy.

Lloyd Thomas is the owner of the pharmacy in Winegars that has been located at 3444 W. 4800 South in Roy for 20 years. He said that when CVS Pharmacy opened last year on 1900 West he was nervous about what that might do to his business. But, he has yet to see a change. “It’s just a way of the economy, there are chain stores everywhere,” Thomas said.

“I’ve always felt that Roy City has been really supportive of us,” Thomas said. The city supports the pharmacy at the annual Roy Days Parade and carnival as well as in the local newsletter.

Jessie Jean’s Coffee Beans Homestyle Café in Roy has experienced struggles keeping the business alive while in the city. Anna Whitnack, owner of Jessie Jean’s for 15 year, said “it’s been hell” while being in the city. Owning a business on 1900 West has been difficult due to a neglected main street and continuous problems with a nearby store, Whitnack said.

Whitnack is working hard to move her coffee shop to a new town in hopes of better business and more support from the city. “We went to talk to Ogden City and they had open arms,” Whitnack said. There is no confirmed date as to when Jessie Jean’s Coffee Bean’s Homestyle Café will move out of town.

Sacco’s Produce has been in the same spot in Roy since 1969. Dominic Sacco said Roy City has always been a local type of city, but he wouldn’t necessarily mind other business in town.

Sacco’s Produce, at 6050 S. 1900 West, has frequenters from Idaho and all over the state of Utah during the summer months. Locals patronize it during the winter months. But with larger markets coming into the town, he said the biggest struggle for Sacco’s Produce has been competing with those “box stores” like Winco and Wal Mart.

“People think they’re going to get a better deal, which pricewise they may. But they may not get the quality. We’re more about selling local products grown here,” Sacco said.

Even with the struggles of keeping up with larger market stores, Sacco believes it’s a good idea to continue to move them into the city. “It’s good to have businesses around each other, it brings everybody to the same location,” Sacco said.

Mayor Cragun clarified that larger corporate markets would help the city of Roy. But, he still wants to keep that local hometown feel that Roy City is known best for. “I’m looking forward to more of the locally-owned businesses in Roy,” Cragun said. He added that he hopes that the beautification of downtown Roy on 1900 West will bring in larger markets as well as local shops while helping the city of Roy and the residents within the city.

 

Roy pharmacy prescribes customer care

Lloyd Thomas stands at his pharmacy in Roy Winegars.

Lloyd Thomas stands at his pharmacy in the Roy Winegars.

Story and photos by BRITTNI STRICKLAND

Lloyd Thomas, a University of Utah alumnus who owns the pharmacy inside Roy Winegars, recently reminisced about his 46 years as a pharmacist during a phone interview with Voices of Utah.

Thomas first realized he wanted to be in the pharmacy industry at a career day as a sophomore in high school. Thomas grew up in South Ogden, Utah, and recalled going into the local pharmacy thinking it had “really neat smells.” Thomas also watched his uncle own a pharmacy and said he knew it was an opportunity for him to help people. So, he had to take it.

“There aren’t a lot of people who know what they want to do so young, I was lucky,” Thomas said, chuckling.

He opened the Winegars pharmacy in 1995 at 3444 W. 4800 South, in Roy. Winegars is one of the oldest family-owned supermarkets in the state of Utah and values the name of a “Home Town Grocer,” according to the website. Winegars is a convenient grocery store near the center of the city.

Thomas is specifically known in the Roy community for his unique customer care.

Sheri Tanner said her mother has been coming to the Roy Winegars pharmacy for 20 years, since it opened. Tanner still comes to the same pharmacy to pick up her mother’s prescriptions simply because of the quality care. “When I come get her medicine they always say ‘how’s your mom doing?’ and it’s very personal,” Tanner said.

Julie Arthur, a resident of Roy, has shopped at the local pharmacy for 15 years because of the personal service. “Every time I go in I feel like they genuinely care about your health, they’re not just doing their job,” Arthur said. She said she trusts the Roy pharmacy because she feels that the pharmacy staff is very knowledgeable and willing to answer her questions regarding prescriptions.

Thomas said he believes treating customers well is key. “People don’t care how much you know, it’s how much you care,” he said.

Being the owner of his own pharmacy, Thomas said he’s in control of the prices, where products are bought and whom he hires and fires. His pharmacy is independent, so he can focus more on customer care rather than being told to focus on money. He also said it’s more fun that way: “When you’re not intent on making money, it just comes.” Thomas said he prefers to shop where people love what they do, so he makes sure that that is clear in his pharmacy.

Customers head to the west side of the store, where the pharmacy is located. Even from a distance it is easy to sense the passion and camaraderie. Taped to the counter of the pharmacy are quotes, comics and obituaries of loyal customers. Behind the gray counter, two or three employees stand with smiles on their faces and a hello to give.

Nick Lucas has worked as an employee for Thomas for 20 years. Lucas quickly brought up Thomas’ heart for the customers. “He looks at it as extended family for some of these people,” Lucas said. “It’s a tough standard to live up to, he’s a great man.” Lucas learned the art of caring for customers simply by spending time around Thomas and watching him work with people. “He’s a great boss, but a better person,” Lucas said.

Roy Winegars is the home of Lloyd Thomas' pharmacy

Roy Winegars is the home of Lloyd Thomas’ pharmacy.

Location and loyal customers are what keeps the pharmacy up and running to this day. “It’s the only reason we have a job is because of them,” Thomas said. Having the pharmacy inside Winegars has been an ideal location because it is one of the more popular grocery stores in town where people can shop and pick up their prescription in a timely manner.

Thomas joked about how interesting it is that it is now a popular occurrence to have a pharmacy in a grocery store, compared to when he first began as a pharmacist. There wasn’t a single grocery store in the area that had a pharmacy. He said pharmacies are now more popular because people are living a lot longer and there is a lot of new medicine available.

Now that people are living longer, Thomas said convenience has become an issue in our society. “Everyone’s time is valuable,” Thomas said.

Customers such as Julie Arthur appreciate that consideration. “At other pharmacies I’ve noticed a longer wait time, and when you’re sick you don’t want to just stand around,” she said. The Roy Winegars pharmacy promises to have prescriptions out as quickly as possible, usually with a wait time no longer than five minutes.

Timely service is one thing Thomas has learned during his two decades as a pharmacist. With his years of experience also come numerous memories. “There are so many great memories, that I couldn’t come up with one,” he said. However, Thomas remembered winning the “Bowl of Hygeia” award in 2013. According to the website, the prestigious honor “recognized pharmacists who possess outstanding records of civic leadership in their community.” He said it truly was an honor to win that award.

Thomas made clear that the customers are why he stays in the pharmacy industry by saying, “I love people, I love to help people.”

Local man travels to Salt Lake City locations and does hair for older adults

Story and photos by STACEY WORSTER

A career that started at J.C. Penney Salon in 1969 has transitioned into a personal hair business focusing on older adults.

Gary Cunningham, owner of Hair Care by House Call, offers perms, tints and manicures. He spends most of his visits performing a haircut and style, for which he charges $18.

“I cater to my customers’ budget plan,” Cunningham said while he was putting a client’s hair in rollers. “I can afford doing this because my clients that have the money to pay full price for my services always pay me extra,” he said, as he pointed to his client.” It all works out.”

After spending 24 years at J.C. Penney, it was a scary transition to start his unique hair business. Without clients a hair business is not possible, Cunningham said.

“I took half of my Salt Lake City clients that I had at Penney’s and started working by call,” he said. “They were good enough to let me come into their homes.”

He is listed in a booklet compiled by Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services that helps older adults locate services and providers.

“There are so many options in that book,” Cunningham said. “Everything a person could need at home so they don’t have to leave.”

“I attract most clients by referrals from other clients,” he said. “The 55-plus book that the Salt Lake City Aging Services has provided also has helped shape my business into what it has become.”

Hair Care by House Call is listed at the top of the hairdressing section on Page 21 in the 55+ Senior Resource Directory.

“If there were complaints, we wouldn’t be in that book for long,” Cunningham said. “I am at the top of the list because I have been doing hair appointments by house call the longest.”

Because Cunningham focuses on providing hair-care services to older adults, he loses clients to sicknesses and death.

“A lot of people just die,” he said. “I am working with them while they are in their last decade or two so I do lose a lot of clients. There is always somebody that moves into an assisted living home or nursing home and wants to try out a new hairdresser. I am a good option for them,” Cunningham added.

Because he volunteers his time for little to no cost, the amount of money he spends on gas is usually covered by the client he services.

Mission at Hillside Rehabilitation Center offers "medical and nursing care and skilled care services in a relationship-rich environment."

Mission at Hillside Rehabilitation Center offers “medical and nursing care and skilled care services in a relationship-rich environment.”

Every Friday at 9 a.m., Cunningham travels to Mission at Hillside Rehabilitation Center located at 1216 E. and 1300 South in Salt Lake City to see Rebecca Helmes.

Helmes, 84, said, “He makes a big difference in my life, and his efforts go a long ways. He always is trying to please clients.”

She had to leave her lifelong hairdresser about six years ago, found Cunningham and has been happy ever since.

“Gary has followed me everywhere this past year,” she said, “every hospital and home I have been in.”

Rebecca Helmes with Gary Cunningham after their 9 a.m. Friday appointment.

Helmes has been in six different facilities, not counting the few visits to the University Hospital, since she left her home in May 2013.

She is receiving therapy at Mission at Hillside for her tailbone injury. As soon as she is able to walk she will return home.

“Gary went to help me out of my bed this morning, and I let him know I could do it by myself,” she said. “I can’t wait to move back home.”

Helmes pays Cunningham $22 every time he comes to do her hair.

“He drives here, puts a rinse on my hair, and talks to me,” she said. “You go to a beauty shop and it is more expensive than that.”

Helmes, who grew up in New Mexico, said having good hair has always been important to her. “We sure could’ve used a good beautician out there, I tell ya.”

That is why she got so embarrassed after an assistant at Mission at Hillside accidentally got her hair wet. She said her hair became frizzy and she didn’t want to leave her room.

“I had people tell me how beautiful I looked,” she said. “I thought ‘yeah right.'”

Photo of the beauty parlor where Cunningham does Helmes' hair. It is located inside Mission at Hillside Rehabilitation Center in Salt Lake City.

Photo of the beauty parlor where Cunningham does Helmes’ hair. It is located inside Mission at Hillside Rehabilitation Center in Salt Lake City.

As Cunningham grabbed the container of Lemonheads, he said laughing, “Well they are all probably just as blind as you are.”

Beauty is important, too, even when one is gravely ill.

Terra Dennis, director of volunteers at Silverado Hospice in Salt Lake City, said in a phone interview that three or four licensed cosmetologists volunteer their services.

“The volunteers each have two patients who they visit once a month,” Dennis said. “It is usually a quick haircut and then a visit. All patients are pretty ill, so a good visit does wonders.”

Cunningham said his clients have become some of his closest friends.

Helmes echoed this sentiment. “Gary has grown to be one of my closest friends over the past five years. He does a great job and cares about me as a person.”

Canyon Rim Care Center is home to many older adults in Salt Lake City

Story and photo by MARISSA BODILY

If you were to walk into a care center on any afternoon, you might see several residents chatting in the hallways or walking around. Some residents know that the care center will likely be their home for the rest of their lives.

As people age, their families may no longer feel comfortable with them living at home alone where no one would know if they needed help. When a family member can’t take them in or they can’t live on their own anymore, they may move to a place where a qualified person will be able to care for them and give them everything they need.

Many different facilities in Utah accommodate people who need assistance with everyday life or simply don’t want to live alone anymore. Care centers provide around-the-clock nursing care, while assisted-living facilities simply provide meals and activities.

According to skillednursingfacilities.org, Utah has 97 certified Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes. The overall average Medicare 5 Star Quality rating for Utah skilled nursing homes is 2.9.

Canyon Rim Care Center on 3300 South is home to many older adults.

Canyon Rim Care Center on 3300 South is home to many older adults.

One local Medicaid facility is Canyon Rim Care Center, which has a 1 Star Quality rating. Most of the residents are there because it is covered by Medicaid.

Many people are sitting near the entry of the center, located at 2730 E. 3300 South, talking with one another and their caretakers. Some residents are sleeping soundly in their wheelchairs.

Sarah has lived there for a year and a half. (This is a pseudonym; center staff would not allow residents’ real names to be used due to privacy concerns.) “The staff has always been really friendly and they take good care of me,” she said. “I love living here.” Most of the residents are really nice, but some of them are ornery all the time, she said.

The care center mainly houses aging aging adults. However, it occasionally takes in younger people who need constant care because of an accident. One young woman said she had good nurses and physical therapists who took care of her and helped her to recover and move back out on her own. But she also encountered problems while living there. “Many people have had things stolen by other residents, so you have to be careful. And the food is horrible,” she said of her experience. She said she made friends with many of the residents, but she was glad to be able to move out.

Some other facilities available to older adults are very nice and cost more money. The cost of assisted living in Utah ranges from $1,300 to $5,900 per month, making the monthly average $2,400. If families don’t have a lot of extra money, there isn’t as much choice and the quality of the care and especially the ratio of workers to residents goes down. Care centers can be very expensive and people just don’t have the money to give their loved one the best. Programs such as Medicaid help pay the costs.

Residents using Medicaid receive an allotted amount of spending money each month, said Peter Hebertson, head of outreach for Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services. Usually this is $45, which has to cover all of their needs such as haircuts, clothes, admission to activities and anything else they want or need. Some residents have family members who give them a little money, others are on their own. The amount of money an aging individual or their family member has greatly affects where they can live.

Many of the people at care centers know it will be their home for the rest of their lives. Some have family who come to visit. Others don’t have anyone nearby or any surviving family members. A few residents don’t have anyone outside the facility who cares about them anymore.

When people picture their future, they most likely don’t imagine living in a care center and needing constant assistance. But for some, this ends up being their reality. Sarah said she loves living at Canyon Rim Care Center with everyone because it is much better than the alternative of living at home alone.

 

 

 

Emeritus Salt Lake focuses on building relationships with residents

Story and photo by IAN SMITH

Emeritus Salt Lake offers care to its residents.

Emeritus Salt Lake offers care to its residents.

Picture yourself as an elder, and you know your time on this earth is decreasing. You know you can no longer take care of yourself. You need assistance. To everyone else, it may be time for a nursing home.

You pack up your stuff. Where did the time go, you keep asking yourself? How did life flash that fast and how has it come to this? You set off in the car that takes you to the home. As you pull up your first impression is that it could work for you. But you still have many questions and not that many answers.

“No one wants to go into a nursing home,” said Anne Palmer Peterson, executive director of the Utah Commission on Aging. The Utah Legislature created the commission in 2005 to address issues related to the fast-growing aging population in the state. Peterson said it is a young state, but it also is the “sixth-fastest aging state in the nation.” Among other things, the commission has studied housing options for older adults. The findings were published in New Trends in Housing for Utah’s Aging Population.

“We want people to be thinking proactively about their futures,” she said.

Even so, it can be difficult to leave all of your memories behind you.

The idea of a “nursing home” isn’t too appealing to many people, though.

Brian Culliton, the executive director at Emeritus Salt Lake at 76 South and 500 East, said people have very different opinions of nursing homes.

Every facility is different, whether it’s a nursing home or assisted living center. Some facilities, like Emeritus, offer help for certain issues residents might be dealing with. Dementia, for example, is taken very seriously at the assisted living facility.

“We provide a family orientation with a caretaker,” Culliton said in a phone interview. “We have a well rounded understanding of what that resident’s day looks like. We want to keep it routine. We have other care providers that will come and talk to give a better understanding of the disease.”

Culliton said the staff and volunteers who work at Emeritus Salt Lake are passionate about the work they do and want nothing more than to help the people they are caring for.

Emeritus Salt Lake is located at 76 South 500 East.

Emeritus Salt Lake is located at 76 South 500 East.

“I’m really passionate about attracting the right [residents],” he said. “It’s that feeling of leaving home if anyone has dementia, you’re leaving your familiar space. You’ve been there for 50-plus years and now you’re going to a new space. It goes back to that care.”

Culliton knows that some older adults are afraid to be alone. But, sometimes that fear prevents people from seeking help.

He said Emeritus Salt Lake aims to offer more than just the borderline help. Staff go above and beyond to help the new residents by developing a personal relationship with them as soon as they walk in the door. Residents are given an orientation and shown around the building.

“With assisted living, every department head goes and introduces themselves and gives them the care that they expect,” Culliton said. “We look at it as kind of like a marriage. Know each other right up front. If we look at the process at the point when somebody applies, we go to their house or hospital and get to know the family immediately and when they move in, we talk about what is best and how to care for the seniors.”

Markel Martinez, a resident assistant at Emeritus Salt Lake, knows how important it is to build relationships. He has had residents find friends at the facility and even fall in love.

“I would want the resident to know that I’m there to help them,” Martinez said. “To be their friend that they can trust and talk to.”

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