Community of Care – MetroHealth Foundation – C to C, The Commitment to Community Podcast
In our final episode of the C to C Commitment to Community Podcast series, we catch up with Rita Andolsen, Executive Director, Philanthropy Communications at MetroHealth. Check out the transcript below to learn about Rita’s career journey into philanthropy and an inside look into all that’s happening at MetroHealth.
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WHAT IS C TO C? INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES
SCHMITZ: Well, Hi, it’s Christina. And we’re back with C to C the commitment to community podcast from Oswald. We’re here with Rita Andolsen. I’m so happy you’re here. Rita. Thank you so much for taking the time.
ANDOLSEN: Oh, it’s my pleasure. It’s so good to see you, Christina. And I’m just so happy to be part of it.
SCHMITZ: Well, it was great. We actually ran into each other in person. I know it was an incredible opportunity and it’s been so long. And thank you for your willingness to join the podcast. Rita, can you take a few minutes, introduce yourself to our audience, talk about your role, and then we’ll take a few steps back because I want to dig in a little bit to your career path and how you got here today.
ANDOLSEN: Great. So, yes, it was so nice seeing you recently in person. I have greatly missed the opportunity to see yourself and others, business friends and colleagues and acquaintances. And so it is so fabulous to at least getting back to some level of normalcy there. I really appreciate that. I get so much business done. I feel like in person that it’s just great and it’s so great to catch up. So I am currently the executive director of philanthropy communications for the MetroHealth Foundation and the MetroHealth Foundation works to support programming that is put forth by the mental health system, which is the public hospital here in Cuyahoga County. I started here in January. It’s actually my second stint at MetroHealth. I worked at MetroHealth from 2014 to 2020 working in the communication side for the system. I left for about a year and a half and then came back. Now I’m doing marketing and communications for the fundraising and philanthropy side of the organization. So I’m happy to be back and a lot of work to do and a lot going on, but thrilled to be here.
SCHMITZ: Great. Well, can we talk a little bit about your maybe earlier career experience in media? I know we first crossed paths when you were at WKYC, and I think you were evolving your role at that time. Can you talk a little bit about that career journey and how it led you into the community side of communications?
ANDOLSEN: Sure. So I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write. I wanted to be a reporter and make a difference. And so I initially started out thinking I was going to be a newspaper journalist. And in college, I had an opportunity to do some intern work on the broadcast side. And once I did the work on the broadcast side, sort of fell in love with that whole medium. So I started my career as a reporter and a producer, and they even made me do the weather from time to time.
I know. It’s just like, seriously, I don’t know anything about weather. But anyway, but fortunately, I lived in West Texas at the time, and it was 85 and sunny every day, so it was fine. I got my base in broadcast journalism in a very small market where you learned how to do everything and did that in Texas, and then went to Europe for a few years. My ex-husband was in the air force, and so we went there, and I did radio there and then came back to the Cleveland area and really started to build my broadcast career. I got to do everything from reporting to producing to assistant news director to eventually managing the newsroom and the entire staff at WKYC. It was a wonderful opportunity where you learned and grew. There was so much on the job training. Nobody really trains you in school for what happens in the real world of blackout journalism. There’s a wonderful opportunity, and we got to cover a lot of amazing things, horrific things like 9/11, wonderful things like debates and amazing things for the City of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. So I did that until about 2012, where I had the opportunity at WKYC to take on a new role that was the director of community initiatives and advocacy.
And it was really a time where our TV station and the company that represented it at the time was very interested in being more than just a TV station and being an entity that had an impact on the community. We created this position and started creating partnerships in the community that really lent themselves to the TV station, being a true community partner. So that kind of took me from my marketing and communications, still utilizing all those skills, but now putting some of the people skills to work. And in fact, that’s when I first met you all at Oswald, we were doing a health fair, WKYC’s first health fair, and I was working as this community initiative person, sort of with our sales and business development people to talk to potential clients like yourselves about how to be part of this Expo. We ended up working with you all to talk about the affordable healthcare act, which at the time was really important. And then the following year, we came back and worked with you again, where you all were purchasing commercial spots to put the spotlight on nonprofits. And it’s always a great blend of, how do we do this?
Marketing, communications, and still have a sense of community and commitment to community. So then I sort of carried that whole commitment to community and impact to MetroHealth, where I started to work in communications and marketing and community engagement for MetroHealth. And again, it took that lump sum of everything I know and who I know and what I know how to do and how I can connect and convene with people to sort of pull things together for the greater good and sometimes to address issues that we’re facing the community, like infant mortality or the opioid crisis or different things like that. So that’s brought me now full circle to today where I’m heading up communications, philanthropy, communications for the foundation. So I still work very closely with the people on the marketing, communication side, with the system for the hospital. But now I’m out there creating tools and toolkits and information for our board of directors, for the foundation and for our fundraising staff to really be able to go out and tell the story of mental health. That’s great, because I feel like we can really have impact and I can use that storytelling piece of me to really shed light on what is an amazing organization with incredible service to the community.
SCHMITZ: Definitely. MetroHealth plays such a critical role in the security, the health and welfare of this community and extends beyond Cleveland. It’s really the original asset that a lot of people, unless you’ve had direct involvement or experience, may not know all of the different pieces, sharing a bit behind the scenes, certainly from your previous role, but then moved into the foundation side?
ANDOLSEN: Sure. So, yes, mental health has been an integral part of the community and community health since the early 1800s. We’ve been the public hospital. We’ve been the hospital that has always been there for everyone, no matter what their ability to pay. We were on the forefront of things like polio and other things like that, where community health issues. And that hasn’t changed. We’ve always been here for everyone with a commitment to health over the years. Yes, we have the public hospital in Cuyahoga County. I think for a long time, people looked at MetroHealth as the public hospital on West 25th street, and they didn’t really know anything more about it. It’s the years progressed. We became very well-known and are a lead provider of trauma care. We are a level one trauma center. We are also the only burn certified hospital in the state of Ohio. And we provide just extraordinary care. We have our rehabilitation is number one in the state and 24 in the nation. So the most complex cases come to us. So, yes, on the one hand, we are the public hospital that is there for everybody and provides care, but we also provide very extraordinary care in very specific, very complicated areas.
Over the years, there’s been a lot of talk, especially in the last four or five years, about community health and social determinants of health. And that’s been something that has really been a driver for mental health. But you’ve been told it’s been a driver since 1837 when we started. We’ve always had the community and the community health at the forefront. Now we’ve really grown a great deal over the last few years and have put community health at the very center of what we do to the point that we’ve created a model now that is local and regional health care, but to your point is now getting national attention because it’s a model that can be replicated in any community in the country. It’s a model that talks about social determinants of health, which are things like safety and food and education and access to food and digital access, different things that impact your health. 80% of what impacts your health has nothing to do with medicine or things like that. It has to do with the conditions in which you live and thrive or don’t thrive. Our tagline is that we are more than more than medicine, and we are we are medicine, absolutely. And take the best care possible of you. But also we know that there are so many other factors that can impact or influence your health. So we create programs like Food as Medicine, the Institute for Hope that looks at things that what else do you need? If you have diabetes and a doctor writes you a prescription for medication, but you don’t have access to fresh food and produce, that’s where it’s going to be a setback for you. So we have a food medicine program that then provides that you get a prescription for produce and can then go to our pantry and get that food. So our healthcare system recognizes that it takes more than just healthcare to make people healthy and to make communities healthy. And we have over the course of time, we now are close to 8,000 employees; 97% of Cuyahoga County residents are within a ten-minute drive of a mental health facility. So it’s not just the hospital on West 25th district. It is a health center in Brecksville and one in Cleveland Heights. And we’re building a new behavioral health hospital in Cleveland Heights, recognizing that there is such a great need in our community for behavioral health.
You can find us in many places. We’re doing innovative things like low-cost imaging. We have now sites in Mentor, Solin, and Medina where patients can go and get low-cost imaging. So instead of an MRI that’s costing thousands and thousands of dollars, low-cost imaging is now being made available. So it’s not just West 25th district. It’s beyond. And it’s our community and every community. And really what we can help other communities learn. Now we have a new hospital that’s being built, a new hospital building on our main campus, center, which will open in October. It will be a beautiful state of the art, eleven story building. I was just telling somebody about this this morning. I can’t wait for our patients to walk in. And so many of our patients are on Medicaid. They are the underserved population. And they’re going to walk into this beautiful facility and be like, Holy Moly, is this for us? Which I just think is a great thing. It is for them because it’s what they deserve.
SCHMITZ: Well, even from a corporate side. I know there’s so many different ways that an individual can get involved or give back or support through Metropolitan, even from a corporate side. I was part of the infant mortality in the First Year Cleveland, because you have so many unique and close partnerships within the community to deliver that well rounded suite of services that really is patient centered in community centered. What are some other ways that someone maybe that’s working for a company leading community relations or community efforts get involved with MetroHealth, where do they start?
ANDOLSEN: Right. Well, there’s a lot of places to start. One place could be volunteering, and we have a director of volunteers. So the office of Volunteer Services that is on our campus. That could be everything from I just saw something on LinkedIn, but I actually want to do it. But maybe it’s Calls for Hope, and what it is, is you’re responsible for maybe one phone call or two phone calls a month. You’re reaching out and talking to someone, and it’s to minimize social isolation. And we saw so much of that during COVID. This is a program that the hospital system does to make certain that people are being reached out to, to make certain that they’re not alone and if they need anything. But there’s assistance out there. So people could volunteer for things like that. People love to come and volunteer. We have a Rock the Baby program, and these are the babies in NICU. And in many cases, it’s the babies with issues, sometimes with substance issues, because their mother had a substance abuse problem and they need to be rocked. And so people come in and volunteer to Rock Babies, and the people who do it say it’s as good for the babies as it is for them.
There’s things like that. We have an upcoming Minority Men’s Health Fair at the end of April that will be at three different facilities in the Cleveland area. And so we have staff volunteering, and there could be community volunteers who can volunteer for this one day event that provides free access for men to healthcare, over 35 screening tests and education and information. There are events that are held sometimes in support of MetroHealth, like the Hyland High Five Run is coming up in Westlake. And that’s the company Hyland. They do Hyland software, they do a run. And the proceeds from their 5K go to MetroHealth to support some of our community programming, things like the Resiliency Run. It’s another one that’s an internal race that the folks involved in trauma and trauma prevention put on so you can support a cause and the system at the same time. And then there’s opportunities for community partnership. Like you said, you were involved with First Year Cleveland and the Safe Sleep. So that was you and I working together, and that was someone in the community. You putting some of the resources you had behind what you were doing, and myself on the Metrohealth, working to combat infant mortality in our community.
So there’s plenty of opportunities, sometimes for companies and for individuals who have their own company or their own interests, to take a look at some of the programs that we’re doing and to either have corporate kind of relationships or sometimes individuals volunteer their services. We have a new one of our organizations that we’re doing our efforts. It’s called Mom’s House, and it’s a sober house, the first of its kind. It’s a sober house where these moms go and they can remain sober while they’re pregnant and going through their pregnancy, and they can still stay afterward as they adjust to new mom and sober living. And so people can come and volunteer things like that. And then there’s always giving you go on the website. I mean, I’m now part of the Foundation, and so much of what i do is geared toward our fundraising efforts, and a lot of people might say, well, you’re the public hospital. You get all public money. Why do you need to raise money? Well, the truth is, we are a public hospital. Yes, but we get less than 2% of our operating budget from public funding. It’s $32 million, which is a drop in the bucket of our overall budget.
We might have some public funding. That’s a very small amount. So we still need to raise money to be able to fund all of these amazing programs that are getting at the root of what’s making people unhealthy and can really help them turn the corner and become thriving individuals in a thriving community. There’s always plenty of opportunities where people you can go on our website and you can give up time, you can give up money, you can give up treasures and talents, so lots of ways to give well, definitely.
SCHMITZ: And I know there are programs that serve all ages, and I know there’s something for everybody, so I would encourage everyone to go to the website. If you interested, connect with Rita, start the conversation. You never know where your interests or your causes may align with what organization needs. So I really thank you so much, Rita, for taking the time and sharing with us, and we look forward to keeping in touch.
RITA: Okay. Sounds good. It’s a pleasure being here, and I’ll just give for you the website. It’s metrohealth.org, so metrohealth, all one word .org, so thank you again, for the opportunity. I always love talking about MetroHealth, and it was a pleasure getting to chat with you.
This transcript has been edited for clarity and web formatting.
Introducing the C to C podcast, an oscast by Oswald production
Commitment to Community is a core value of Oswald; it’s the foundation of who we are and the purpose behind all we do. The C to C podcast provides a platform for nonprofit partners to share their stories and discuss the critical issues facing their clients. Our goal: create a halo effect of service and support, inspiring our audiences to align with causes that speak to them and take action in their companies and communities.
Hosted by Christina Capadona-Schmitz, VP and director of marketing communications and leader for community engagement, this podcast series features in-depth interviews and highlights the good works happening throughout our communities.