ENTERPRISE — The Hearts for Health Integrated Care Center held its ceremonial ribbon cutting Friday, Sept. 10, with a virtual gathering of about 95 people due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

The actual ribbon was cut the day before in a filmed event when fund-raising co-chairmen Gay Behnke and Bob Crawford were on site for the event.

But patients and staff will have to wait another few weeks for the center to actually open its doors for Winding Waters Community Care Center and the Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness to be able to welcome patients.

“Both organizations will begin providing services in the new facility Oct. 4,” said Tosca Rawls, public relations and development director for the Center for Wellness.

Located just across Medical Parkway from Wallowa Memorial Hospital near Wallowa Valley Senior Living, the combined facilities become a “health care campus,” said Amy Busch, development director for the new center.

The “integrated” aspect of the facility means medical, dental, mental health, therapeutic, educational and other health care-related services all are offered there. There is even a “teaching kitchen” included in the facility.

“No one will ever know why you pull into the parking lot,” said Chantay Jett, during the virtual gathering. “Your visits are confidential.”

Jett is the executive director of the Center for Wellness.

“We just built the building that embodies what we strive to be,” she said.

Nic Powers, CEO of Winding Waters, agreed.

“It will make a difference in thousands of Wallowa County residents,” he said.

In fact, the new center is the culmination — and a new step — in a partnership that has been ongoing for the past 10 years.

Officials who helped

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., also was present Friday. He called the facility “a model for Americans.”

The senator has been instrumental in helping secure funding at the federal level.

“We have literally the all-star lineup of health care providers … who will continue to serve Wallowa County well,” Wyden said.

State lawmakers who are perhaps closer to the county’s needs also attended.

Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, said he was “not comfortable with (being included in a) very important persons section. I’d change that meaning to a very important project at a very important place with very important people and a very important team led by (hospital chief medical officer) Dr. Elizabeth Powers and Chantay Jett.”

Hansell also noted the important contribution of state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland/Beaverton, in showing the need for the new center.

“It makes it possible for the residents of Wallowa County to get the kind of integrated care they need,” Hayward said.

Hansell then read a letter given to him for the event by former state Rep. Greg Barreto, R-Cove, who was unable to attend.

“It has been a privilege of playing a small part“ in getting the project done, Barreto’s letter read. “It saddens me to know that Mike Wilson will not be taking part in this opening. … He will be sorely missed.”

Wilson remembered

Wilson, who had been a senior associate at Westby Associates, offered his consultation on a feasibility study prior to undertaking the project. He died in July, Rawls said.

“He was instrumental in the support and the funding for this project,” she said.

Numerous other speakers lamented Wilson’s absence and invoked his memory as the facility was opened.

“We’re carrying Mike’s spirit through this event,” said Mike Westby, CEO of Westby Associates who served as emcee for the virtual gathering.

Numerous others who contributed money, arranged for government funding and donations from foundations, in-kind donations and other means of support were thanked as the $9.1 million facility of nearly 20,000 square feet was opened.

“It’s important, not only for health care but for building community,” Behnke said. “It is everyone’s space.”

Westby agreed.

“It’s hard to believe we’re here today to officially close out this campaign,” he said. “It will be a space for all to use.”

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