A new partnership between SSM Health Foundation-St. Louis and IFM Community Medicine will provide expanded health care access to residents who live near a Bridgeton landfill with radioactive waste.
The Connection for Health and Healing Project, based at SSM Health DePaul Hospital in Bridgeton, is being funded by a $5.3 million grant from the Bridgeton Landfill Community Project Fund. The effort seeks to increase access to health care for some 70,000 residents living within a four-mile radius of the Bridgeton Landfill.
“This initiative is a foundational step toward expanding health access and equity for the community surrounding the Bridgeton Landfill, which is an important part of the DePaul Hospital service area,” said Tina Garrison, president of SSM Health DePaul Hospital, in a statement. “This is another example of the emphasis SSM Health places on community health and our unwavering commitment to bringing health care to underserved populations across our region.”
The initiative will emphasize identifying and treating high-risk conditions created or amplified by the landfill, including pediatric and adult asthma, diabetes and behavioral health, and different types of cancers.
Other parts of the plan include 16 new “roving” community care clinics and a community resource center; nurse practitioners placed at partner schools, food pantries and shelters; streamlined health care access via telemedicine, multilingual outreach and transportation support; community health workers to help patients navigate health care resources such as Medicaid and health insurance; connecting people with health care providers and services such as food pantries; and access to specialty care at SSM Health DePaul Hospital, including programs for cancer screenings and care, respiratory health, and behavioral health.
Bridgeton Landfill Community Project Fund was established at the St. Louis Community Foundation in 2018 and is funded by a $12.5 million legal settlement with the state of Missouri, Republic Services, Allied Services and Bridgeton Landfill Inc. The Bridgeton Fund’s mission is to support initiatives that contribute to the betterment of the environment, health and safety of the communities within that area.
Describing the health care initiative as “exciting news,” Sister Judy Bell, president of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, said the multi-focused grant project “is so aligned with the mission of SSM Health to be more directly involved in community settings in order to better meet the health care needs of citizens in underserved populations.”
The Franciscan Sisters of Mary have advocated for the cleanup of West Lake Landfill, where 47,000 tons of Manhattan Project-era radioactive waste were dumped in 1973. The sisters became involved in the issue when they moved their corporate headquarters to Bridgeton in 2010-11. The Environmental Protection Agency began the process of removing radioactive waste from the landfill in 2020.
As the congregation of sisters who sponsored SSM Health until 2013 (the Sisters of St. Mary and the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville reunited in 1987 to become the Franciscan Sisters of Mary), “we will faithfully continue our prayers for this new outreach ministry as we do now for all SSM Health Ministries knowing that in the providence of God many lives will be positively impacted,” Sister Judy said.
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Read our coverage from 2018 on the Franciscan Sisters of Mary and others in their advocacy efforts to clean up Manhattan Project-era radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill. See https://stlreview.com/3nXnFC2.