Teresa Bigelow, co-founder of Safe Crossings Foundation in Seattle, and Dr. Darin Neven, an emergency room physician and medical director for the Consistent Care Program at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, Spokane, have been chosen by the Sisters of Providence to receive the 2013 Mother Joseph Award.
The Mother Joseph Award is given annually to a person who “exemplifies the values and courage of Mother Joseph,” the first provincial superior of the Sisters of Providence in the West.
As Teresa Bigelow and her young children grieved the loss of their husband and father Bill Robertson in 1989, she saw an acute need for grief and bereavement counseling for children facing the emotional challenges of the terminal illness and death of a loved one. Through Safe Crossings Foundation, such services are provided today in partnership with Providence Hospice of Seattle to children and teens at no cost to their families. Teresa will receive the Mother Joseph Award in a reception at 6 p.m. Monday, May 13, at Providence Hospice of Seattle, 425 Pontius Ave N, #300, Seattle.
“Outreach to children has always been dear to the hearts of the Sisters of Providence,” said Provincial Councilor Jo Ann Showalter, SP. “Just as the needs of children and others were always integral to the mission of Mother Joseph, we see that same deep love and compassion expressed through the untiring efforts of Teresa Bigelow and her love of children and her willingness to tackle the huge unmet need. Mother Joseph must be smiling!”
Dr. Neven recognized the plight of homeless individuals leaving the emergency room or the hospital and returning to the streets and shelters. That moved him to take a lead role in providing continuing care for this most vulnerable population. In addition to projects like Respite Housing, he is the medical director of the Consistent Care Program, created to provide wraparound services and resources to the most vulnerable. Dr. Neven will receive the Mother Joseph Award at a date yet to be announced.
“As a busy emergency room physician, Dr. Neven comes in contact with many people of diverse needs,” Sister Jo Ann said. It would be simpler for him if he said, ‘I’ve done what I can’. Instead, a flame of love and compassion won’t allow him to stop before he has exhausted all possibilities, especially for the indigent and homeless patients. The same charity of Christ that impelled Mother Joseph also impels him.”
Teresa, retired from a 25-year career in health-care law, was nominated for the Mother Joseph Award by Gary Crum, director of Providence Hospice of Seattle Foundation. Safe Crossings Foundation (originally the McMullin-Robertson Foundation) was founded in 1989. Teresa served as its president for 17 years and continues to be an emeritus board member. One of her three children, daughter Colleen Robertson, is a member of the foundation’s board of directors. Safe Crossings Foundation is the largest contributor to the Safe Crossings Program, Providence Hospice of Seattle’s grief program for children and teens. Since 1990 the foundation has donated more than $1.8 million for that purpose.
The program has grown to serve more than 27,000 children through the grief program and expansion into grief counseling in schools, day camps and an overnight weekend camp. “Since her husband Bill’s death in 1989, Teresa has shown the determination, leadership and values of Mother Joseph as she and her foundation have made a real difference in the lives of thousands of children,” Crum wrote. In 2008 Teresa was awarded the Hospice Award of Distinction, that foundation’s highest honor, for her impact on grieving children. Teresa also has served on the board of trustees of Swedish Medical Center, now the community board, since 2007.
Dr. Darin Neven
Dr. Neven’s emergency room experiences have inspired him to create and champion innovative measures to care for the poor and vulnerable, many of whom resort to hospital emergency rooms for their primary health-care needs. He was nominated for the Mother Joseph Award by Sara Clements-Sampson, benefits manager for Maria House, part of Providence Health Care. She brought him to the nominating committee’s attention for his “compassion for the most poor and vulnerable in the Spokane community.” One of his roles has been on a Department of Health committee developing state guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain by health-care providers in emergency departments. The guidelines reinforce the needs for a primary-care provider to prescribe and monitor use of powerful and addictive pain meds such as Vicodin, Percoset and OxyContin.
Dr. Neven and other Spokane emergency room doctors began a pilot project sharing a database in 2006 that since has spread to other parts of Washington State. Frequent recipients of pain medications in emergency rooms are identified and helped to enroll in pain and addiction management programs.
In the Consistent Care Program, Dr. Neven helps find patients the services they need, including a primary care provider, mental health resources, substance abuse resources, and even housing resources. By giving them hope and access to better health, he is improving their lives.