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Sandy mental health clinic continues to be community resource

When Clackamas County closed its Sandy primary care clinic in 2008 because of budget cuts, there was a common misperception the mental health clinic went with it.

On the contrary. The community-based mental health clinic in Sandy continues to serve Oregon Health Plan clients, Medicare clients and some uninsured patients in the Sandy area.

'We enjoy what we're doing, and we believe in what we're doing,' says Karen Hedden, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with the clinic. 'As people who live in town, we care deeply about our clientele and community. We want to give back.'

At the end of February, longtime mental health specialist Nancy Ashley retired from the clinic after 18 years, with Candia Hills stepping into her position. Ashley, Hills and Hedden want to remind the community that the clinic is still a local resource.

Though much has changed since the time Ashley began working at the clinic - technology has transformed the clinic's operations and the drugs clients use vary over time - she says the need for mental health resources has not wavered.

'In Oregon City, there's Lifeworks, Cascadia and other agencies that help serve the (mental health) population,' she says. 'There's no other agency out in this area that serves this population. The need hasn't changed.'

The Sandy mental health clinic offers therapy services for adults and adolescents, alcohol and drug treatment for adults and adolescents and medication. It also offers case management for patients who are identified as severely and persistently mentally ill.

'The most rewarding part of the work is the clients,' Ashley says. 'They make it all worthwhile, and the staff here is fabulous, too.'

Though she has left her position, Ashley remains active in the community, organizing a new Al Anon group, 'Progress Not Perfection,' and training to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate.

Ashley noted that sometimes the mental health clinic is not the last stop for patients. A huge part of the clinic's role is to connect patients with additional resources, and the clinic coexists with other county agencies such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children Program), which shares the same building on Proctor Boulevard.

The clinic also works closely with corrections and children services, and serves a large region, including the mountain area, Estacada, Eagle Creek, Damascus and Boring.

In addition, the clinic supports Folktime, an organization for mental health run by mental health clients out of the Sandy Community Center, 38348 Pioneer Blvd. The nonprofit offers a variety of activities, from painting to gardening and from bingo to field trips.

'I'd like for us to be known as a place to go to really engage,' says Hills, the new mental health specialist. Hills comes to the clinic with 11 years of experience in addictions, mental health and residential treatment from working at De Paul and Volunteers of America in Multnomah County.

Ashley said her dream for the clinic is to see a full staff and for it to be more involved in the schools again.