Promise on the Plains recipient making dual impact
Mending the mental health crisis in Wichita food deserts

It was a few months ago that we shared how Common Ground Producers and Growers was transporting healthy produce into food deserts and food insecure communities, but they are also doing something to further strengthen our community.

Common Ground was a recipient of an equity grant from United Way of the Plain’s through the Promise on the Plains initiative. The funding they received went towards Common Ground’s mission of serving those without access to healthy and fresh food, but when we went to see how it worked, we learned they are doing more than food delivery.

We were introduced to Keisha Couts. She works at Common Ground, but her role is a bit different. She is a mental health specialist that is checking in on the people Common Ground serves.

“If we’re out on a route and there’s something going on mentally with the person, I just step in and try to de-escalate,” Couts shared. “Giving them the resources that they need in order to connect with somebody so they can get assistance they need for mental health.”

A client shops for fresh produce from Common Ground Growers and Producers, a United Way Promise on the Plains grant recipient in 2022.

Many of the communities Common Ground serves are in neighborhoods where people are disenfranchised. They are lacking access to grocery stores, which usually means other basic needs aren’t being met. It isn’t unusual when Common Ground is delivering food to find people without access to quality healthcare. Couts sees people suffering from depression, addiction, dementia and other disorders, and we’re relieved to share, she doesn’t look away; she digs into the situation to find resolution.

She recalled a time when she was at a farm collecting fresh food for delivery when a health crisis happened.

“We were picking up produce for the morning and there was an elderly lady just wandering and she couldn’t identify where she was. And this was in an area where it’s very secluded. She could not tell us anything. She was very frantic.”

Without knowing the situation well, Couts knew she had to help. After getting police involved and using her network, she was able to reconnect this woman to her family.

“Her daughter had been looking for her. She had very severe Alzheimer’s. She couldn’t remember where she was. Who her husband was. Her husband had passed away like two years ago. In those instances, it’s almost like, okay, I know someone that can get a hold of someone that can get some help to these people.”

The ultimate middle (wo)man! She has professional training to assist people, but also realizes that her knowledge of community resources can help connect people to the services they need.

“Every day. Fulfilling. Every Day.”

Many of the other situations that Couts gets involved with pertain to senior populations. Seniors were impacted by COVID-19 in ways we are still trying to remedy. Isolation, while deemed necessary to limit the spread of the virus, change the way the 65+ crowd engaged with the world.

Entire generations of people stayed home and did what they felt was necessary to survive. Now, we are seeing restrictions fade and Couts is helping people navigate the emotions that go with that.

“They are happy to reengage, but also still kind of on guard if they want to,” she said. “For them to see us when we come, it’s relationship building and then to see them after COVID, it’s just like, oh, ‘you’ve made it!’”

This is the type of engagement we love to see in our community. People going above and beyond to help their neighbors. We know there are hundreds of people in our communities initiating innovated, equitable and significant change for their neighbors. If you operate or work for a nonprofit in south central Kansas, please click here to learn about funding opportunities from United Way of the Plains.

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Published On: November 17, 2022Tags: , , ,
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