The request to obtain $2.5 million from the Oregon Legislature to build an integrated health clinic in Enterprise began in earnest last week.
Winding Waters Clinic and Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness, the primary push behind the project, held a Capital Request and Discovery Day Sept. 12.
Guests included Sen. Bill Hansell and Rep. Greg Barreto, as well as Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward.
The day began with a luncheon at Wallowa Lake Lodge, where a phalanx of community representatives each took a few minutes to express support for the clinic.
The 17,000 square-foot $7 million facility to be built on 3.2 acres across from Wallowa Memorial Hospital would bring together medical, dental, childcare and mental health services under one roof and provide a “warm handoff” between the two.
“This is a dream that started a long time ago,” Chantay Jett, executive director of the Center for Wellness told the gathering of nearly 50 people.
Growth in scope of service is also driving the push for a new facility. Nic Powers, CEO of Winding Waters, said the clinic has grown from 27 employees to 62 in recent years and is accommodating 28,000 patient visits annually. Center for Wellness has had similar growth.
Providing a multiple of services in one place is particularly important to the county’s veteran community, Wallowa County Veteran’s Service Officer Ted Thorne told the gathering.
“It’s difficult enough to get them to admit they have a problem, but then to have to send them to several locations for treatment makes it even more difficult,” he said.
Law enforcement representatives, education leaders, and a number of individuals who had received help also spoke. Another emerging theme was the stigma attached to seeking treatment at the current Wellness Center.
“With a campus where you can access all sorts of care, no one knows why you are there,” said Jenni Word. Wallowa Community Hospital Chief Nursing Officer.
While none of the legislative delegation was willing to say that funding was certain, all used supportive language.
“The case here is incredibly compelling, probably the best I’ve ever heard,” Hansell said.
A huge piece of the puzzle would be how effective a case Wallowa County can make at hearings this winter in Salem.
He recognized the fact that it’s a long way to come for a couple minutes of testimony, but there was no possibility of funding without local presentations.
Rep. Barreto said he was familiar with the situation Center for Wellness and Winding Waters were experiencing from a private business standpoint.
He said his business had experienced the challenges of working out of more than one location.
“Now’s the time to bring this together,” he said. “Let’s do this.”
Sen. Steiner Hayward was in Eastern Oregon to attend the Pendleton Roundup at the invitation of Hansell.
The Beaverton legislator, a Democrat, has extensive experience serving on the committee that approves funding requests such as the one being prepared in Wallowa County.
She and Hansell sit in adjoining chairs on the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee.
“We’re going to make this happen,” she told the lunch gathering.
For Steiner Hayward, mental health issues are extremely personal. She has multiple sclerosis and has been treated for major depression.
She’s also a medical doctor at OHSU and a friend of Dr. Elizabeth Powers, who has practiced in Wallowa County since 2007.
In addition to the legislative funding, supporters of the project are hoping to raise $800,000 from foundations, sales of existing Center for Wellness property and other sources.
Roughly 39 percent of the total is already committed, according to presentations made last week.
A major fundraiser this winter will mirror one held last year, part of the “Hearts for Health” campaign.
A $100,000 anonymous gift was the impetus for raising $355,000 from that event. Organizers hope for similar results this coming year.