Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

New Faces and Expanded Services at the SCC Health Clinic

If you’ve visited the SCC Health Clinic lately, you’ve probably noticed it’s a busy place. You may have also noticed new staff members.

In November 2020, the Clinic welcomed Karen Minx, a Substance Abuse Counselor.

Karen was born and raised in Eagle River. She came to the Clinic from the Forest County Potawatomi Community Health and Wellness Center, where she worked for two years. Prior to that, Karen worked in the medical field in emergency medical services and phlebotomy.

“This was an opportunity to grow a new behavioral health department, and that was very intriguing to me,” Karen said.

Karen primarily does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which focuses on changing thinking to change behavior, self-esteem building, strength-based motivations, and individualized care. “Everyone has an individual story and it’s important to know where they’re coming from and where they want to go.”

When looking to the future, Karen shared that something she and the new Behavioral Health Counselor would like to incorporate are grief groups. “There is so much unresolved grief in this community and that leads directly into substance abuse.”

“This is a special community. I learn a lot from my patients by just listening to them. They’ll teach me what they need from me,” Karen continued.

Karen has been married to her husband for 20 years, and they have five children whose ages range from 11 to 22 years old. She loves to farm, garden and play outside.

Dianna (“Di”) Koch, the Behavioral Health Manager and Behavioral Health Nurse Case Manager, joined the Clinic in January.

“I wanted to work here because of the solid leadership I saw. During the pandemic, this Clinic stood out as stable and supportive due to the quality of leaders it has,” Di said.

Di lives in Three Lakes, has been married for 15 years, and has two children. She worked in Forest County as a Behavioral Health Registered Nurse and Case Manager for 10 years.

“I have a passion to help people who struggle with mental illness and/or addiction. I strive for mental and physical health in my personal life and try to exemplify healthy goals,” she shared.

She is focused on supporting and growing the Behavioral Health services that the Clinic offers, which include mental health and substance use services. “I want to get to know this community more and be supportive however possible.”

“I got into nursing after joining a humanitarian aid agency for a year when I was 18 years old. I was part of a medical relief team that sailed to Honduras and hosted a summer-long mobile medical clinic all around the country. It was there I was inspired to spend my life helping people. There’s too much hurt in the world and if I can do my part to make it slightly better, then that’s what I’ll do.”

Dr. Gary Pusateri joined the Clinic in March as the Medical Director and Physician.

He worked in the Sokaogon Chippewa Community many years ago; for 27 years he worked with the Lac Vieux Desert Health Center, and for seven years he worked with the Forest County Potawatomi Community. He was instrumental in developing the health clinics in Watersmeet, Eagle River and Crandon.

“I came here after talking with the Tribal Council. They spoke of the major improvements they want to make at the Clinic, and I saw this as an opportunity for a new challenge – to have this Clinic to be something the community is proud of, to have the Clinic be trusted by the community, and to have the community know that we care about them. We want the Clinic be a place where the community and surrounding area will come for their health care and for the care of their family,” Dr. Pusateri said.

“Our focus now is creating a team atmosphere so that everyone is a part of the body of the Clinic. Behavioral Health is an integrated part of our services. I’m a firm believer that, as the head is connected to the body, it’s imperative that our services work closely together as a team to provide alternative methods for pain control and anxiety.”

“We’re expanding the Clinic to offer more services. In rural settings, the more services that you can provide, the better it is for the patient. Our Massage Therapist starts today; we’ll have a new dentist coming one day a week soon. We’re looking to bring optometry, physical therapy, x-ray equipment, and more. We want to have easier access for folks. If we make our decisions based on what’s best for our patients, we’ll rarely lose.”

“We’re also creating excitement for our team. I want them to feel like they are part of something special because they are. This will be a place that people want to come to. We know that we need to go out of our way to take care of people. We’re working in a small, close-knit community, and we know that good news travels fast, and bad news travels faster.”

Dr. Pusateri is originally from the Chicago area, and graduated from the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Illinois. He trained at the Gundersen La Crosse Clinic in La Crosse, and has lived in Eagle River since 1994.

He’s a passionate person who loves to hunt and fish. “It was the outdoors that drew me here,” he shared. He’s been married to his wife Katy for 37 years, and has four adult children. His daughter, Jessica Hoffman, is the Nurse Practitioner at the Lac Vieux Desert Health Center in Eagle River.

Welcome to Karen, Di and Dr. Pusateri!