Planners moving on facility to assist underserved citizens

With planners seeking nonprofit status and hiring an architect to initiate the building-design process, the city of Beaverton’s ambitious proposal to establish a community health center to assist its medically underserved population is moving from concept toward the concrete.

It will likely be years before a bricks-and-mortar facility opens, but Beaverton Community Health Partnership planners are gearing up to find an appropriate site for the center, secure funding sources and engage citizens in the project’s goals.

Before hearing a presentation on the partnership’s long-range vision on Tuesday night, the City Council approved a $75,923, contract with Portland’s Scott Edwards Architecture. The firm is charged with developing a schematic design package and cost estimate based on the various health partners’ parameters, as well as similar facilities and budgetary limitations.

Funding derives from a $1.6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control the health partnership received last October. The city’s Economic and Community Development Department applied for the grant last summer with the goals of creating a comprehensive policy plan, establishing relevant and specific health-based initiatives, and establishing the partnership as a formal, sustainable organization.

Envisioned as an integrated clinic facility providing everything from affordable mental health counseling and dental care to health workforce training in a centralized location, the plan involves more than 20 partners from Washington County and the state, noted Don Mazziotti, the city’s community and economic development director.

On Dec. 11, 2012, the council authorized agreements allotting $438,536 among six key collaborators, including Washington County Health and Human Services, the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, Pacific University, Lifeworks Northwest, Community Action of Washington County and the county’s Disability, Aging and Veterans Services.

Many in need

The idea started 18 months ago in the wake of a Department of Health and Human Services designation regarding the city’s health care and medical accessibility. The city, Mazziotti learned, has about 31,000 citizens considered “medically underserved,” and another 210,000 underserved people who live adjacent to the city.

“That’s a very large number of people without insurance and without health care,” he said on Tuesday.

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

“It allowed us to go from an initial motivation of trying to solve the space needs of partner agencies ... to really taking advantage of the changes in national and state health policy and satisfying the needs of our population,” said Dave Waffle, the city’s assistant finance director. “That has become the motivation.”

The facility would provide health care training as well as medical care, an aspect that’s drawn positive feedback from focus groups, Waffle noted.

“Among the clients are students at Pacific University who are in the medical profession who want to be trained at the facility,” he said.

Planners are seeking nonprofit status as the model to govern, as well as possibly own, the facility.

“We’re not committing to that, and we’re not committing you to that,” Waffle said to the council. “But that’s the focus.”

Groundbreaking vision

Possible sites for the facility remain to be studied, but some councilors and staff have suggested the vacant Westgate property, next to Rose Biggi Avenue and The Round at Beaverton Central, as potentially appealing. The city and Metro regional government jointly own the 3.94-acre lot.

Councilor Betty Bode said the project, which may add a health-based chapter to the city’s comprehensive plan, is a clear outgrowth of quality-of-life issues addressed through the 2011 Community Visioning process.

“This effort at adding a health chapter is just the next step in the Visioning process on what the citizens asked for,” she said. “It will teach a much broader concept of health.”

The plan’s emphasis on social, as well as medical, determinants regarding community health, Mazziotti noted, puts the state and the city ahead of the national curve, as exemplified by the recent $1.6 million CDC grant.

“Nobody else is doing this,” he said. “We want to set the model for the rest of the county, and for that matter for Oregon, but most importantly, we want to improve the health of our citizens and tackle it as a community challenge that we need to meet.

“I believe firmly this is one of the most important initiatives any city in the county is undertaking,” he added.

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