Gering sits on Nebraska’s western border about 10 minutes south of Scottsbluff. It’s a town of 8,500 tucked away in the Panhandle. Newer buildings, like the one in which Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska (CAPWN) is housed, and older buildings with 1930s brick facades face each other from opposite sides of tree-lined streets.
Like a lot of young people, Gering native Danielle Rose was ready to see what was beyond the city limits of her hometown. When she finished school, she struck out on her own and headed south to Colorado. She soon realized it was time to go home.
“I’m Panhandle born and raised,” she said with a quick smile, “I returned to Gering and started at CAPWN in 2012 as the Director of Nursing and Team-Based Care.”
In 2017, Danielle left CAPWN to finish her nurse practitioner program then returned to CAPWN to helm the Reproductive Health Program in 2020. The decision to do so was easy because of the team.
“I’m thankful I have the support of other providers, that mentorship,” she said.
In her first year back, Rose was able to prepare CAPWN to successfully meet the needs of an increasingly diverse client base during a pandemic. The team has made several enhancements and additions to their staff that has positioned them grow and better serve their community.
The shifting demographics of rural Nebraska have created new needs in the Panhandle and CAPWN has stepped up to meet them. Rose said they are seeing a steady increase of immigrants in the area, particularly those who speak Spanish. Nearly 25 percent of Scotts Bluff County residents identify as Hispanic or Latino, up almost 10 percentage points since 2000.
“We do still [serve] immigrant families; however, our immigrant population looks a little different now. There is not as much work in the fields for immigrants as machinery has played a bigger role in this industry. We do still have a migrant program in Alliance,” she said.
To eliminate the language barrier, Rose said some Spanish-speaking members of CAPWN’s staff have become certified medical translators. The Agency has also added a language line to serve clients who have immigrated from areas that speak other languages.
“It’s kind of case by case, based on the individual. Our staff is educated to ask more open-ended questions. We’ve brought on a new CNA,” Rose said.
Their staff enhancement has also included adding a data analyst. “Ben (Absalon) has been a great addition. He came in and has made a real impact, which is impressive since he’s not medically orientated. But he just got it and got to work,” Rose said.
CAPWN’s reproductive health team has also been going into immigrant communities to connect with them, but cultural barriers remain. A recent health fair at a local community center connected to a church highlighted the need to be aware of and sensitive to the cultural needs of clients.
“We have to meet them where they are. That’s why the language [support] is important. That’s why we have to balance cultural needs. That’s why we have to customize our approach. Talking in broad terms, talking about preventing breast and cervical cancer and the impact on overall health; the right verbiage helps.”
This event also confirmed what Rose already knew. The best way to serve more clients is by building relationships with other organizations across the Panhandle.
“I’d like to stabilize our department staff and use the site evaluations [NEFP] provided. We’re in a good place to grow, build on our strengths, and build partnerships,” she said. “We want be a part of conversations around healthy relationships and provide the medical side of it.
We want to get into the high schools and make sure the nursing staff knows we’re here, knows about Title X. We want to take our outreach at [Western Nebraska Community College] and create pop-up clinic opportunities.”
Ultimately, Rose is ready to assist as clients plan their own lives.
“When clients come here, they’re making life choices. They’re planning. This is bigger than Title X. We’re helping people with sensitive and critical healthcare. Knowing they have options when they’re in a vulnerable place is a game changer.”