Every heart has a story to tell, and everyone needs support sometimes to achieve optimal health and wellness.
Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness and Winding Waters Clinic are leaders in bringing together key parts of Wallowa County’s health care delivery system to increase coordination, improve access and eliminate disparity.
Together, we believe that the integration of primary care and mental health is the future of health care.
For more than 50 years, the center has provided mental health counseling for all ages. It currently serves nearly 400 people a year with 14 different programs in seven separate locations.
The organization employs 70 staff, is one of the largest employers in the county and has $5.6 million budget. It returns 70 percent of that budget back into the local economy between salaries, benefits, goods and services.
Winding Waters has served Wallowa County for more than 40 years and has been dedicated to meeting the complete primary care needs of residents and visitors, including dental.
The clinic recently transitioned from being a physician-owned private practice to becoming a Federally Qualified Community Health Center, increasing its financial security and expanding services.
Wallowa County is beautiful, isolated and faces significant health challenges. What happens when individuals do not seek mental health services due to fear of judgment or stigma?
In 2016, our rate of preventable hospitalizations was among the highest in the state, according to the Office of Rural Health “Areas of Unmet Healthcare Need in Rural Oregon Report.” In addition, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported our ratio of mental health providers to residents at 1:760, as compared to 1:270 for Oregon as a whole.
The same report found our alcohol-impaired driving deaths to be more than twice the state average.
There is huge need in Wallowa County for a new integrated health services building. The center and the clinic have outgrown their facilities and recognizes the need for a new location to remove stigma and provide more holistic care.
Our ability to continue to grow to meet the burgeoning need is limited by our inefficient and insufficient facilities. Overcrowding is taking a toll on our staff and our community is concerned about timely access to services.
Over the next two years, our joint goal is to raise $6.8 million to build a new integrated health services facility. We have been identifying and cultivating community and leadership gifts and currently have almost 40 percent of the needed funds secured.
We are building relationships to approach the Oregon Legislature in the 2019 session to request $2.5 million of support in Lottery Bonds. On Sept. 12, we will have Sen. Hansell and Sen. Steiner Hayward visit our community to show them why there is such a need for this building and to begin the process of the legislative ask.
Bringing together medical, dental, childcare and mental health under one roof, combined with a wide range of educational opportunities, is the national benchmark for healthcare.
Our hope is that by combining health and wellness services into one integrated building, talking about mental health, addictions and developmental disabilities will become as common and comfortable as talking about one’s cold symptoms.
The new building will provide the following to the Wallowa County Community: five new exam rooms, four new dental operatories, 22 new counseling rooms, two classrooms for instruction of up to 32 children, which will increase access to early childhood education. In addition, there will be a teaching kitchen for hosting nutritional classes for a full span of ages and skill levels. We will offer large meeting spaces for events, trainings, exercise classes and many other community needs.
Without wellness we all suffer: our relationships, our economy, our safety and our future. The new integrated care facility is investing in the long-term health and economy of Wallowa County for generations to come.
Chantay Jett is Executive Director of Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness
For more information, please contact: