Central health care facility envisioned to serve at-risk population

Amid the daily bustle of Central Beaverton and a stream of ambitious talk involving urban renewal, a Civic Plan and Enterprise Zone, it may escape the average resident’s notice that a notable chunk of the city’s core population is statistically underserved by accessible, affordable and efficiently provided medical services.

But in fact the U.S. census considers Beaverton officially lacking in services for residents facing economic, cultural or linguistic barriers to health care. These underserved and “at risk” populations are thwarted by facilities that are overcrowded, not in proximity to one another and poorly coordinated for those with overlapping service and treatment needs.

In an ambitious attempt to reverse that trend, the city is exploring a multifaceted partnership to offer an array of public health services for medically underserved populations of Beaverton and Washington County in an accessible, centralized location.

The Beaverton Community Health Partnership is rooted in the city’s long-running relationship with the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Clinic. The two entities have developed a mutual interest in establishing a local, integrated clinic facility that provides everything from affordable mental health counseling and dental care to health workforce training.

Although a location has yet to be chosen, momentum for the concept is building. Members of the city’s Community and Economic Development Department presented an outline to the City Council earlier this month. Gov. John Kitzhaber has endorsed the plan as one of his Oregon Solutions projects, assigning a team to oversee governance and operation of the proposed clinic.

And the city is pursuing a Centers for Disease Control for a Community Transformation Grant between $1.5 million and $2.5 million that would be used to engage partners to shape policy in areas such as tobacco-free and active living, healthy diets, preventive clinical services, social and emotional wellness and a healthy and safe environment.

Breaking ground

Don Mazziotti, Community and Economic Development Department director, said the effort could provide a model for other cities to follow.

“I think it is a pioneering kind of effort to integrate services, location and operation of a variety of entities that deliver public health, teach clinical education and deliver clinical services,” he said.

While the CDC grant is an important goal at this point, the project could proceed even without it.

“The grant would be extremely helpful in doing the work we need to get done, but it is not crucial to the project moving forward,” he said. “The grant can greatly enhance delivery of public health education, clinical services and a variety of other community social networks and the kind of services based on the nature of the partners themselves.”

Along with the Virginia Garcia clinic, core partners in the project include Pacific University, Community Action of Washington County, Lifeworks Northwest and Washington County Public Health. Other entities expressing interest include Providence Health Systems, Portland State University, the Community Health Program, Kaiser Permanente, AT Still University, and the Washington County Commission on Children and Family Services.

Dave Waffle, the city’s assistant finance director, said the project takes already integrated partnerships in an ambitious new direction.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “In some other situation, if you try to bring these people together to dance for the first time, that’s different for them. But this is normal. It’s ‘Let’s do the things we’ve been doing, but on a bigger scale and more of it.’”

Beyond needing a 3- to 5-acre parcel that’s centrally located, Waffle said the facility’s primary criterion is accessibility. Proximity to one of the MAX transit centers and current and future affordable housing are of premium concern.

“We tend to favor something closer to the Beaverton core,” he said.

With the city now owning the South Office Building at The Round at Beaverton Central, as well as the vacant Westgate property next door, those locations would likely be in the mix as the City Council decides how to develop the properties. The possibility of moving city government offices into the South Office Building has already been discussed.

“Even if the decision is made that city offices go in there, there are still a couple of floors available that are vacant and could solve the need,” Waffle said. “And Westgate, it’s publicly owned, the right size. It would be foolish not to consider it.”

Integrated partners

Jim Jacks, project manager for Oregon Solutions, said the health partnership proposal fits well among the projects in the state-run community enhancement forum.

“Oregon Solutions is helping with three parts of it,” he said, “the vision, program integration and partners, and governance — once you put this thing together, how do you run it month after month, year after year?”

Jacks was impressed with the project’s emphasis on integration rather than simply providing separate services under one roof, as well as the aspect of partnering with Pacific University and Washington County public health agencies to provide clinical experiences for students.

“We don’t just want it to be co-located, but how do they integrate as many lines of business as possible, and make it as seamless as possible to use?” he said. “And students can get good clinical experience in an interdisciplinary environment.”

Mazziotti said the rest of 2012 will be spent pursuing grants and other funding sources, refining aspects of the partnerships and analyzing appropriate facilities.

“The city is the convener here, not the impresario and not the coordinator,” he said. “We have brought together these many partners to discuss how to solve the challenges of an underserved population. We intend to continue to be a convener until such time the organization is ready to fly on its own.”

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