Colorado mobile service connects families with resources
February 20, 2020
The Mobile Intercultural Resource Alliance, known as MIRA, is a 40-foot RV that serves as a safe, accessible place for families to connect with comprehensive health resources and services in the communities where they live. MIRA coordinates with local community organizations and health providers as it travels to various locations across the county to provide a wide variety of resources to underserved populations.
These resources include basic health education, screenings, immunizations, financial assistance, early childhood programs, and physical activity programs. The vision is that any service that can be provided in a brick-and-mortar building can be offered by MIRA.
What is your title and what are you responsible for at MIRA?
I am the MIRA Manager and Community Connector and I lead the development of relationships with community members within target neighborhoods. I am responsible for oversight of the day to day operations of MIRA, including on-site service providers, staffing, scheduling of service providers, and MIRA schedule. I ensure that decisions for MIRA operations and activities are led and guided by the needs and interests of the community. I am proud to promote a culture of empowering families by connecting them to services and providing a warm handoff to agencies when appropriate. I provide in-depth motivational interviews with community members to identify goals and action steps. I develop and maintain a referral system with community partners to assure clients are being connected to services. Service delivery and partnership development based on identified community needs is a huge priority for me.
What lead you to pursue this career path?
I am a Certified Health Education Specialist with a Masters in Public Health in Health Education. My interest in nutrition and health led me to this career path. When I first moved to the United States and Eagle County, it was hard to start a career with an international degree so I started working with families in need while pursuing my post-graduate education. After a couple of years in my role as a Family Service Coordinator, I was impressed with the number of resources that Eagle County had available. I found that those resources were not being dispersed equitably and were not being received by families that needed them the most. When I was called to participate in the MIRA project, I was excited to learn that grass-top organizations were working to bridge the gap in services and resources available to families, helping them to navigate systems in a culturally sensitive way.
What role does MIRA play in preventing child abuse and/or neglect?
MIRA brings different resources to families at their doorstep. We are preventing child abuse and/or neglect by encouraging families to apply for early childhood programs, pick up healthy food options in the community market, having their children and family members receive flu-shots, health, and dental checks. MIRA also brings local hospitals and sheriff offices out to communities to provide bike helmet education and distribution along with car seat checks. MIRA staff ensures that adults and children have a medical and dental home, that they are enrolled in health insurance and educated on how to navigate the health system. MIRA staff help to identify mental and behavioral health concerns and works to address them by connecting families with parenting classes, substance abuse resources, domestic violence support systems, local mental health providers and hotline numbers.
Children love to come and visit MIRA as we give them tours, snacks, and we establish conversations to better understand their family situations and relationships. In MIRA, we know that any resource or service we provide can make a child's living environment a positive one. Family-centered and strength-based approaches will affect the child and its family as a whole, whatever the need would be.
Can you share a story of a memorable experience of when MIRA has impacted a family?
I remember a moment when I realized that MIRA impacted many families at the same time. One day, I stopped and recognized how many resources MIRA was providing and how many children and families were benefiting from the program. All at one time in the RV, we had health screenings, two parents having their blood pressure and glucose tested, and Economic Services staff assisting a senior couple to check on their Medicare status. Outside of the RV, we had Eagle County Sheriff's Office conducting car seat safety checks for a single mom while on the side of the bus we had neighbors were shopping for healthy food at the Community Market, free of charge.
At MIRA we have realized that neighbors always come back and visit us simply to say hello and to thank us for being there for them. These visits help us to really see the impact that MIRA has on the community.
How would you describe a "typical" day at or with MIRA?
We start the day by looking at the weather. If it is a snowy day, we may be concerned about roads and parking conditions, depending on the location planned for the day. MIRA is a large vehicle and it can be challenging to park in certain locations. If all is clear with the weather, we then open the doors and neighbors in the community are welcome. We hope that residents of each neighborhood feel welcome and if we notice that people are passing by we wave at them and invite them to come in.
When people come in, we ask them to complete a welcome card that serves as an assessment to learn more about their interests and needs. We start conversations depending on their interests and we discuss their connections to community activities and resources. At MIRA, we understand that every day is different, people go through different situations and have different needs, so we try to be prepared and knowledgeable of the resources and connections that we can provide so families can thrive.
MIRA staff work to create trust and rapport while listening to and assessing a visitor's needs. Every conversation is different, so we start connecting the need with existing resources by making referrals. Referrals may include asking organizations to connect with a MIRA client, or providing contact information of a resource to a MIRA Client and assisting them with getting in touch with the resource.
When we have services such as health screenings or the community market available on the bus, residents feel more comfortable just coming over and talking to us. We engage in conversations while they are getting their groceries, or after a health or dental checkup
In MIRA, we are staffed with 3 permanent staff and we all agree that every day is unpredictable.
What keeps you motivated on tough days?
In MIRA we don’t have tough days. What MIRA staff considers to be tough are the tough stories that are heard while visiting communities. Our days go by easily, the lives of the residents and families in need are what we care the most. A tough day would be a day that we don’t receive many people or any people at all. We know that are many individuals going through hard times and we wonder how can we get to them to be of help and how can we help people to open up and tell their stories.
In MIRA, we do a lot of listening and give opportunities for people to be heard. We respect everyone and intentionally work to ensure that MIRA is a safe place for all to come and have a refreshment or just to talk. We focus on motivating people to take action toward their goals, encourage them to be aware of their strengths and support them by connecting them with resources.
A tough day could be filled with a lot of stories of suffering, struggles, and trauma. MIRA staff have made it a priority to meet and debrief at the end of each day to release any tension or frustration. We also support one another and brainstorm ideas on finding resources for tough cases. Oftentimes, when new ideas arise, we call MIRA participants and let them know of the new resources available to them. By the way people respond, we realize that we are bringing hope to their families.
The Colorado Department of Human Services CO4Kids campaign encourages all Coloradans to strengthen families and communities. If you know of an organization or individual working to strengthen Colorado families and communities that would like to be highlighted, please reach out to Dianna Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn about the signs of child abuse and neglect and for information about how to become a foster or adoptive parent, visit CO4Kids.org. Call 844-CO-4-Kids to report concerns about child abuse and neglect. If a child or teen is in immediate danger, dial 9-1-1.