Council will hear results of community health center study

An expansion from five to seven areas in Beaverton designated as medically underserved indicates a change in economic demographics that could influence the scope and location of a proposed Community Health Partnership facility in the city.

Based on a recent application from the Oregon Primary Care Office to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, the administration on Oct. 1 added five areas designated as medically underserved to the two that have been in place for the past 10 years. The tracts are clustered within Central Beaverton, centered on the downtown business district near Broadway Street and Southwest Farmington Road.

The administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, designates areas as medically underserved based on factors including a lack of primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty and/or a high elderly population.

The Primary Care Office exists within the Oregon Health Administration as the recognized entity that analyzes and applies for designation of Health Professional Shortage Areas, Medically Underserved Areas and Medically Underserved Populations.

Marc Overbeck, director of the Primary Care Office, said the expansion indicates a significant shift in the city’s demographics and economic well being.

“Within the past 10 years, the Beaverton area has undergone a dramatic change in demographics,” he said, “particularly in terms of a reduction of income per capita and concentration of low-income individuals — in the city area as well as a significant increase in the number of migrant and seasonal farmworkers and an overall increase in the Hispanic population.”

Lindsey Kuipers, project manager with the city of Beaverton, said the expanded designations are consistent with data the city’s Community and Economic Development Department used to develop the fledgling Beaverton Community Health Collaborative. The project is directed toward establishing a partner-driven, multi-faceted and centrally located health care clinic that caters to the city’s underserved and vulnerable populations.

“The recent expansion of the medically underserved designation in Beaverton is consistent with the changing social determinants of health we have been seeing over time through census data and other sources,” Kuipers said. “The expanded medically underserved designation illustrates the important role community development efforts play in positively impacting overall community health and creating healthy, vibrant communities.”

The health collaborative would bring several agencies, including Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, Lifeworks NW and the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services, under one roof in Central Beaverton.

At the Tuesday, Nov. 5, City Council meeting, Erdman Co., a Wisconsin-based real estate developer specializing in health care facilities, will present results from a $150,000 study on the viability of locating the complex on the vacant former Westgate Theatre property next to The Round at Beaverton Central.

The council authorized the study at its July 16 meeting in a 3-2 vote. Councilors Cate Arnold and Ian King opposed the study, which includes a timeline, budget and operational outline based on the site. A preliminary evaluation determined the Westgate site the most viable of six sites around the city.

Based on the study’s findings, the city and health collaborative partners would determine whether to move ahead at the site, with the option of selling the property — owned by the city and Metro regional government — to Erdman or its business partner, Pacific Medical Buildings. If Erdman’s plan is rejected, the city and the partners would each be expected to reimburse $37,500 to the company.

Councilor Betty Bode, who supports using the Westgate site for the facility, said the expansion of the areas considered medically underserved is further indication that residents could benefit from such services.

“To have a health center in immediate proximity to where the largest group of people are marginalized makes sense to me,” she said on Tuesday while waiting for the “Three Creeks, One Will” sculpture to be installed at The Round’s South Plaza. “The presentation by the Erdman Group will certainly clarify some of the questions surrounding the proposal and the location.”

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