With help from First Steps, a young Mankato couple was able to welcome their newborn daughter into the world without the fear of not having health insurance. Shanna Stadler and her husband Josh were at the Mankato Clinic last year when they first learned about the First Step Program, a community program designed to support women through pregnancies and additional milestones and is funded by the Mankato Clinic Foundation and the United Way.

Shanna was just a few weeks pregnant with her daughter Olive when she became sick and needed IV fluids to keep her from becoming dehydrated. A native of Canada, Shanna had just moved to Minnesota to be with her husband.

She mentioned to her Mankato Clinic nurse that she was unable to get on her husband’s health insurance—a frightening situation for anyone, but even more so for an expectant mother. It was at that appointment that the Stadlers heard of First Step.

“Our goal is to support families with children prenatal to kindergarten,” Coordinator Teresa Freitag said. “We offer support and help give parents connections to community resources.”

First Steps also supports families in the areas of non-medical, insurance, housing, transportation, employment and basic needs. Freitag currently has a caseload of 204 patients and has helped 1,200 people in the two and a half years First Steps has been in existence. Once the Stadlers learned of First Steps and their vast amount of resources, they knew they had to meet with Freitag.

“I was told that once Shanna moved here, I could add her to my insurance because it was a life change,” Josh said. “When I called to add her, they said I wasn’t able to.”

The Stadlers immediately began filling out paperwork for Shanna to become a US citizen, but the task doesn’t happen overnight, which left the pregnant mother in health care limbo. They met with Freitag who helped Shanna apply for insurance through MNsure.

“It’s a huge process that takes a long time,” Freitag said. “Because Shanna’s immigration was coming and she wasn’t a permanent resident yet, we had to work through all of those issues.”

By meeting with the Stadlers in person at least once a month, Freitag helped Shanna obtain health insurance, just in time to deliver Olive in early January. Shanna’s health insurance was accepted and backdated to the beginning of her pregnancy, Freitag said. With a basic OB package running at least $7,285, Freitag helped save the Stadlers from years of financial stress.“She saved our lives when it came to insurance,” Shanna said.

“We would have done whatever we needed to do without insurance,” Josh added. “I even mapped it out to a few years down the road; I knew we would have had to file bankruptcy to wipe it all out. This was a lot of stress removed that we didn’t need.”

With a one-month old to now look after, the Stadlers are grateful for the help of First Steps and Freitag.

“Definitely try First Steps,” Josh said. “Teresa really helped us and I’m sure we were skeptical at first, but she helped us a lot. Talk to them, the worse that will happen is you’ll learn something.”

Unable to work until her citizenship paperwork comes through, Shanna now spends her days caring for blue-eyed Olive and still continues to talk with Freitag.

“She’s just awesome,” Shanna said on Freitag. “Without her and First Steps, we probably would be behind on a lot of bills. Insurance-wise, we’d have even more debt. She was so helpful.”