ENTERPRISE — A single medical facility that integrates physical, mental, behavioral and dental health care has long been a dream of both Winding Waters Community Health Center and the Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness. That dream will come true when the new Hearts for Health Integrated Care Center opens its doors Friday, Sept. 10.

The $7.4 million, 18,932 square-foot facility has been slowly taking shape on Medical Parkway since construction began last year. Now, the interior walls, electrical and communications wiring are nearing completion, floors and ceilings are mostly in place. It’s ready for the interior and exterior finishing touches followed by installation of equipment. The center will host a ribbon-cutting in September.

Although some construction finishing work is ongoing, HHICC is offering public tours on the third Thursdays of the month in May and June (May 20 and June 17). The tours will be at noon and again at 5 p.m., said Wellness Center Public Relations and Development Director Tosca Rawls. 

“It’s a way of saying ‘Thank you’ and welcoming the community to our new home,” Rawls said.

To reserve a place on one of the tours, call Rawls at 541-426-4524, ext. 1031.

The project is currently under budget, Rawls said. Its funding includes $800,000 in support from people and businesses in Wallowa County, $2.5 million from the state of Oregon and additional funding from the M.J. Murdock Memorial Trust, Lewis Clark Valley Healthcare Foundation, the Ford Family Foundation and the Wildhorse Foundation.

Lem McBurney, project liaison, said that the facility is planned to optimize privacy while getting patients swiftly to the care they need.

“Even though everything’s together, there’s kind of a medical side and a mental health side,” he said.

But it’s the integration of these until-now disparate branches of medicine that makes the HHICC unique among rural health centers.

“When someone has a mental heath break, dental issues will push forward the mental issues,” McBurney said. “The same is true of other conditions, including urinary tract infections. So mental health and medical health are very closely tied together. The idea here is to take care of everybody’s whole health.”

The HHICC also has a teaching kitchen. It can be used to prepare meals for events, for catering and as a commercial kitchen. But its more important role will be providing cooking and nutrition classes.

“We want to participate in what the hospital got started with their Blue Zones (program),” McBurney said. “The idea here is to teach people skills and lifestyles that prevent illness — mental or physical — from happening. So the idea is that a therapist could come in here, cook a healthy meal with somebody, and then they could go out on the patio and sit and eat it, and talk about life skills. It’s taking therapy outside an office and giving people new skills and perspectives.”

The large conference room, with a capacity of more than 100 people, will be able to host public and private events, from actual conferences to birthday parties.

“We send our staff across the state to attend trainings,” Rawls said. “With this facility, we can bring the trainers here, to us, (either in person or on the large screen). That could save organizations here a lot of money, save us a lot of money and we’re going to have the technology to provide those services.”

The HHICC will have lots of other innovative facilities, from a meditation room to a counseling room set up so that parents can keep an eye on their children in an adjacent playroom while talking with a therapist, to an area where people in need can do laundry, iron clothes and take a shower. The facility will be helpful for people who are in crisis.

“Our crisis team does things day and night, McBurney said. “There’s been 25-50 crisis actions within the past three weeks. But people don’t know that because the crisis team does the work so quietly.”

And, of course, there’s plenty of conventional medicine and dentistry, including four dental operatories, five medical exam rooms and 17 clinical rooms. And the parking areas can be used by people who are using the adjacent Jensen ball fields, McBurney said. There will be a total of 2 miles of walking paths.

“We’re leading the charge on a new model of integrated health care, especially in rural areas,” Rawls said. “We’re really excited to show other providers how this works.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct tour dates, the building square footage and information on events surrounding the opening. 

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