CDC funding slated to plan preventive-based health policy

A $1.6 million award from the Centers for Disease Control to the city of Beaverton provides a shot in the arm for a proposed consortium of public health services for medically underserved populations.

The city’s Economic and Community Development Department applied last summer for the grant and learned Friday the city secured the funding.

The $1.6 million will be directed toward further planning for the Beaverton Community Health Partnership. The collaboration between the city, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Clinic and other partners seeks to establish an integrated clinic facility that provides everything from affordable mental health counseling and dental care to health workforce training in a centralized location.

Although planning work on the proposed partnership would have continued regardless of the grant, Mayor Dennis Doyle said the award comes at a crucial time in the process.

“It’s going to speed up the process dramatically,” he said. “It’s an inspiration for all the partners, including the city. This will really activate (the partners) so we can really say, ‘OK, this is real right now. How do we develop a very new model for delivery of services?’ ”

Don Mazziotti, director of the Economic and Community Development Department, called the CDC’s grant announcement “great news.”

“It’s the foundation piece for establishing a community health center that serves the whole community,” he said. “It’s focused on the medically underserved, but also includes a series of programs from a variety of organizations focused on public health.”

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 interested entities 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.

Gov. John Kitzhaber endorsed the plan as one of his Oregon Solutions projects, assigning a team to oversee governance and operation of the proposed clinic.

City officials have not reached the point of choosing possible locations for the facility, so planning at this stage involves shaping 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.

“A lot of people are focusing on the facility,” Mazziotti said. “That’s not unimportant, but the key to the project is the collaboration and integration of a variety of providers of health, wellness, education — and other aspects of community and public health — into a multipurpose facility.”

Mazziotti and Doyle agree the location of the health partnership facility will be based on proximity to public transit services, including MAX light-rail train stations.

“Ideally it will be close to mass transit if there is land available for it,” Doyle said. “There are a number of available spots along the light-rail line. Our thinking is let’s make it easy to get to.

“It’s the integration of those organizations into an effective delivery mechanism that makes this innovative and unique,” he added. “And that’s why the CDC funded this project.”

Despite an array of projects and challenges the city is facing, from implementing Urban Renewal and Civic Plan directives to addressing space needs for the police department and City Hall, Doyle said he’s confident this is a good time to kick start an innovative health-oriented partnership.

“I truly feel we are able to take this on,” he said. “Some of the other issues, such as City Hall and the police department, those will be taken care of and put to bed pretty soon. I think the city is in good shape to tackle this (health partnership). We’re trying to deliver on what our citizens asked for in the visioning process, which is an active, vibrant downtown.

“The potential for this facility is huge.”

Asked if there are precedents in Oregon or elsewhere for such a health partnership catering to the underserved, Mazziotti didn’t hesitate to tout the plan’s cutting edge qualities.

“We are the model,” he said. “That’s part of the grant, to perfect this integration model, to use it, and through working with CDC, show other states and communities how this can be accomplished.”

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