Clinical Programs and Services

Special Diabetes Prevention Program

Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center (GLIIHC) is making considerable strides in fighting diabetes in the Native American community. In fact, since its Healthy Living with Diabetes (HDL) program began, 84% of the  participants have lowered their blood sugars and 62% have lost weight.

“We teach healthy living behaviors that can assist in preventing chronic conditions, such as diabetes,” GLIIHC’s Diabetes Program Director Melissa McGee said. “The workshop receives funding from the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI), which was established by Congress.”

McGee, a registered nurse, said she and Loren Rendino, a registered dietitian, work together to develop programs and meals aimed at preventing diabetes in the Native American community, which is at-risk for the disease.

“The HDL class is an evidence-based curriculum developed by Stanford University,” McGee said. “This is a free, six-week group, self-management course for anyone managing type 2 diabetes, Pre-diabetes, or caring for someone with diabetes.

“The Wellness Garden is also a part of our program that teaches patients, elders and community members healthier eating habits that incorporate more traditional foods, fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily diets,” McGee said. The garden also receives funds from the SDPI.

The diabetes program is also sponsored by Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee County Department on Aging, the Aging Resource Center of Milwaukee County, the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging, and UniteMKE.

For more information about Healthy Living with Diabetes, please contact Loren Rendino at, or call (414) 316-5005.


Work Out Low Fat Elders (W.O.L.F.E.) Program

The Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center’s (GLIIHC) elder program is one of a kind, says registered dietitian, Loren Rendino.

“Where else can our treasured elders socialize, get weekly health screenings, participate in cultural activities, take a yoga or self-defense class, learn about nutrition, have access to our Native Wellness Garden, and participate in cooking presentations?” Rendino asked.

This W.O.L.F.E. program is a collaboration between GLIIHC and the Indian Council of the Elderly, she said. The weekly program for Native American elders 45 and older and their friends, focuses on health promotion and chronic disease management.

“As part of the award-winning program, elders spend an hour with a physical fitness trainer doing cardiovascular exercises, strength-training and increasing their range of motion,” Rendino said. “Then they move to the kitchen where we teach them a new nutritional topic each week, ranging from moving back to traditional foods, to eating for better bone health.

“All of the elders work together to make a hot, healthy lunch, using as many traditional foods as possible. And then get to enjoy a healthy, great tasting meal,” she said.

“I have great relationships with so many of them,” Rendino said. “It has helped me in  other ways in my job. If you have elders on your team, you are good to go.”

To join W.O.L.F.E., which meets every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at GLIIHC, please contact Rendino at (414) 316-5005 or the Indian Council of the Elderly (414) 933-1401.

Native Wellness Garden

​On a hot, sunny summer day, Gerald Ignace Indian Health Center (GLIIHC) staff hosted about 25 people who gathered at our Native Wellness Garden to celebrate the opening of a Native American Indian agricultural tradition.

Daniel Preston, substance abuse counselor in-training at GLIIHC, led the group in purification, prayer and song, as everyone was about down tobacco, “To ask Mother Earth for permission to use the land.” He directed, “Everyone put the tobacco in your left hand closest to your heart.” He is from the San Carlos Apache Tribe

“It was wonderful,” said Annie Gardner, of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, of the ceremony and garden. “It’s absolutely beautiful. I’ve always wanted to visit the Native Wellness Garden.”

Garden plots, with wooden borders, are rented by community members. There also is an urban orchard, medicine wheel garden, amphitheater for ceremonies, performance area, 3 Sisters Garden and  a small lodge.

This is Lotus Bailey’s sixth year of working at the garden, located at 3780 S. 6th St. She is now the garden coordinator.

“It’s a way of sharing with the community,” Lotus said, adding “It’s a way to grow food without chemicals. People should be growing their own food and we teach younger people how to grow food.”

GLIIHC’s Diabetes Program Director Melissa McGee, RN, said the produce is shared with the W.O.L.F.E. (Work Out Low Fat Elders Group) and the Healthy Living With Diabetes program. Vegetables go to providing healthy meals for the participants, or anyone who wants fresh produce.

“Our GLIIHC Wellness Garden is another wonderful activity and service that is funded through the Special Diabetes Program for Indians,” McGee said. “On Tuesdays and Saturdays, we have our Garden Club where people come to garden and help, learn, or just enjoy the scenery and fresh produce, or they attend food demonstrations. Every year the number of participants increases, which shows us an in improvement in popularity and willingness to learn.”

“The garden is amazing because we grow everything organically,” GLIIHC Registered Dietitian Loren Rendino said. “No pesticides are used. We use all-natural fertilizers. Our goal is to educate people to grow their own healthy food, knowing that it will help prevent chronic diseases.”

Besides GLIIHC, sponsors of the garden include Milwaukee County, University of Wisconsin Extension, the Seed Initiative.

To learn more about the garden or to become involved please:


Youth Empowerment Program (YEP)

The Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center’s (GLIIHC) Youth Empower Program (YEP) participants did more than ride horses, glide down water slides and attend picnics with their families during the summer.

“The Native youth program aims to cultivate awareness and provide education on substance abuse and suicide prevention through project activities for youth ages 7-19 years,” said Deborah Black, GLIIHC’s YEP Project Leader and Behavioral Health Counselor. “The youth project utilizes a strength-based approach to foster empowerment.

“It also increases resilience, strengthens cultural identity, promotes leadership skills, and supports family engagement through a holistic approach to health and wellness,” said Black, of the Dakota Sioux and Seneca Tribes.

“Family engagement is key to healthy youth development,” she said. “Community engagement is vital towards building healthy linkages of support.”  Family nights are offered 12 months out of the year, and typically occur the last Thursday of each month.

“YEP Family Nights are an opportunity for families to participate in activities that provide education on suicide prevention, substance abuse prevention, cultural education, health and wellness topics and activities that encourage positive family participation, teamwork, and fun,” Black said.

For more information about YEP contact Youth Empowerment Coordinator Stacey Mattson at, or call (414) 316-5000.



Beading Class

Dick Kaquatosh, a former machinist, welder, who operated heavy equipment, easily picks up miniscule blue, glass-cut beads with a small needle and thread and tacks them onto a puzzle design – a symbol for Autism.

“It’s for our granddaughter who is Autistic,” said Kaquatosh, of the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin. The origins of the puzzle piece, the primary symbol for autism, go back to 1963.

Kaquatosh and his wife, Kelly Kaquatosh, of the Oneida Nation, attend Sandy Martin’s beading class held 3-6 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, at the Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center (GLIIHC).  It is one of many free traditional and cultural-based classes offered to the community. 

“Beading classes are offered in the Milwaukee area, but  for a price, some as high as $200,” Martin said, adding that, “GLIIHC purchases the beads – which can be expensive – and other material, so cost is not a factor for anyone who wants to join our beading class.”

Martin, of the Sioux Spirit Lake North Dakota and Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, as taught beading classes since 2012 and started beading when she 9, said “I love it. I enjoy teaching true native stitches to other natives. Plus, it’s very therapeutic.

“You’ll be surprised how time flies when you’re beading,” she said, “We have such a good time in this class.” “Sometimes you laugh so hard we cry,” Kelly Kaquatosh said.

The members of the class can be seen counting to themselves as they create colorful, one-of-a kind pieces of art, ranging from necklaces, earrings, pins, and Minnie Mouse Barrettes.

“My granddaughter told me ‘right grandma, you talk to the beads and they listen.’ She’s right. We are bead talkers,” Sandy said and laughed.

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