More than 80 generous people raised more than $55,000 for the long-planned integrated health center Saturday night at the third annual Hearts for Health dinner and auction. Construction on the new building, just south of Wallowa Memorial Hospital on Medical Drive, is slated to begin on March 1.

The construction cost of the facility is budgeted for $7.1 million.

The facility will include a wide variety of services, from dentistry to mental health counseling. It is specifically designed so that health providers from diverse disciplines can collaborate on patient care, and the types of care that patients receive will be more confidential.

“Integrating behavioral health and primary care can provide extraordinary results,” said Chantay Jett, Director of the Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness. “For example last year we worked together with Dr. Powers of Winding Waters in treating patients with Type 2 Diabetes. One of our results was that the patients in the collaborative program lost a combined total of 1000 pounds during the first year, which was astounding.” The new building will include a large conference room for community gatherings and professional meetings, and a training kitchen where community members can learn to prepare healthy meals.

“We know what may seem to be very different health issues actually can be related”, said Nic Powers, CEO of Winding Waters Community Health Center. “Dental infections affect mental health. Diabetes affects depression. This new collaborative center will help us treat the whole patient, and bring people together in the community. I’m excited to see this happening.”

So, evidently, was everyone at the dinner. Bidding was brisk on items that included cooking lessons and a dinner donated by Lynne Curry, benches donated by Bronson Log Homes, a weekend in Bend with a brewery tour, a collection of 30 exquisite wines, dinner at Gay Beneke’s log home, and two Mexican vacations. Silent auction items included a set of Olaf pottery, a painting by Jennifer Klimsa, jeans from M Crow, and brewing lessons from Nick Lunde. Donations included $500 from the Wallowa County Health Foundation, $500 from the Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness board, $500 from the Winding Waters Clinic staff, and $250 from Soroptimist. Individuals, including Dan Yarger of Seattle, Dan DeBoie, Larry Davy, and Derrick Howard, donated amounts from $10,000 to $100 dollars. Yarger presented a moving tribute to his brother Doug, who received mental health care at Pioneer Guest Home and Wallowa River House and passed away in 2019. “Getting care to people when and where and how they need it is important,” he said. “Doug had family support and community support here. He had a good life.”

In the previous two years, the Hearts for Health dinners have raised about $600,000, said Mike Wilson of fund-raising consultants Westby Associates. That support by the community was instrumental in getting a $2.5 million grant for the new building from the State of Oregon last fall. The funds raised from this event, he noted, will demonstrate continued community commitment to the Murdock Foundation, that will be making a decision on a $500,000 grant in March.

“This is an extraordinarily generous and caring community,” said Nic Powers. “I’m very happy to see the new center nearing reality.”

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