MMU graduate classes host healthy lifestyle event for those recovering from substance abuse

Students in Mount Mercy University’s graduate-level Health Advocacy: Leadership & Management class, taught by Dr. Elaine Cook, and Health Promotion/Disease Prevention class, taught be Dr. Julie Shaw, hosted an educational event in early November aimed at teaching community members struggling with addiction how to live a healthier lifestyle.

"Our goal with the event was to teach good nutrition habits and how to accomplish those habits," said Health Promotion/Disease Prevention student Amanda Richardson. "Gaining those skills is hard without supplies and resources, so we try to provide the men with those resources. For example, they all left with a cookbook we put together to use in their homes.”

Nearly 40 men participated in the event sponsored by Hy-Vee and Collins Community Credit Union of Cedar Rapids, and The Barn of Wellman, Iowa.

Students planned interactive activities, including a Price is Right style game where the men compared food prices between Hy-Vee grocery stores and Casey’s gas stations. Other topics presented included basic nutrition information, budgeting tips and meal planning.

The event was only a small part of the nursing graduate program’s work with Safe Place Foundation, a Cedar Rapids based organization that provides a drug and alcohol free living environment with ongoing staff support, community volunteer involvement opportunities and peer-to-peer mentoring.

“Safe Place utilizes anything that can help these guys,” said Mike Maynard, interim director at Safe Place Foundation. “We look at important issues—like shopping, cooking and eating. Some of the guys don’t have those basic skills, so we teach them how to do laundry or make a bed. They work with Iowa Work Force to learn how to search for a job. We also work with Waypoint on permanent housing and good tenant skills.”

Safe Place Foundation boasts a 46 to 47 percent success rate, which Maynard said is good considering the population and issues they must face.

The partnership between Mount Mercy and Safe Place began in fall 2016. Dr. Sharon Guthrie, assistant professor of nursing and director of the MSN graduate program, said it allows Master of Science in Nursing students to actively engage in Mount Mercy’s mission, vision and values.

“Students use reflective judgment and serve the common good through experiences and community outreach,” Guthrie said. “Ultimately the students experience justice, hospitality, and service to vulnerable individuals and a population in our community.”

Students start their work with Safe Place by creating inspirational messages on pillow cases that are provided to each resident of the foundation. The students continue to explore Safe Place resident challenges including health literacy, motivation to change behaviors and vulnerability in the Health Promotion/Disease Prevention class.

“For the MSN students that continue in the area of Health Advocacy, the Safe Place Foundation becomes a point of reference as a local community organization and opportunity for MSN students to apply knowledge and skills related to community assessment, policy, assurance, program planning and leadership,” Guthrie said. “The Health Advocacy area of emphasis is unique as it focuses on assessment of communities and populations, local, state and national policies that influence health and how programs are development, managed and meeting the needs for vulnerable populations particularly in response to the recent changes in health care focusing on care coordination and management of health concerns.”

Guthrie expects the partnership between the MSN program and Safe Place Foundation to expand as more opportunities arise.

“The MSN program has registered nurses who are eager to learn and need to understand health care outside of the acute care setting, and Safe Place Foundation has an ongoing population of individuals that MSN students can help provide education and resources as the residents go through their transition to recovery.”

To learn more about Safe Place Foundation, visit

To learn more about Mount Mercy University’s graduate programs, visit

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