Vernonia Health Center Ready to Open February 19

The Vernonia Health Board is pleased to announce that they plan to open the doors of the new Vernonia Health Center on February 19, 2013.

The Vernonia Health Center will operate under the management of The Public Health Foundation of Columbia County.  Medical oversight will be provided by Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU).

The Health Center will be open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:00 to 5:00 PM and Tuesdays from 3:00 to 7:00 PM.  Appointments are currently being scheduled, but according to Health Board members the response has exceeded expectations and they are currently already booked through the beginning of March. Appointments can be made by calling 800-244-4870.

“The community is showing that there is a need and that there is a desire to access services made available here in their own community,”  says Vernonia Health Board President, Marie Krahn.

The Health Center will be staffed by a  Nurse Practitioner, Tera Roberts,  and a Medical Assistant, Laura Onderdonk.

The Health Board is also actively working to regain rural health clinic status which will allow for a broader base of clients that can be seen.  They are also going through the credentialing process in order to be able to accept most major insurances.  Potential clients are encouraged to contact the Public Health Foundation of Columbia County at 503-397-4651 to ask  if they accept their insurance. Anyone who is part of Care Oregon or have children in the Oregon Healthy Kids program are already accepted  and can be seen immediately.

“One of my favorite things about having the clinic re-open here in Vernonia is the fact that we are going to be able to see so many people,” says Krahn. “Virtually everybody can be seen, which is how it should be.   I am so thrilled about that.”

The Health Board is asking that if community members would like to support the efforts of the Health Board to provide health care in Vernonia, they can schedule appointments at the clinic and also tell others in the community about the re-opening of the Health Center.

In other news, the Vernonia Health Board is continuing to move forward with plans to build a new facility to house the Health Center.  Currently the Health Board is working with Scott Edwards Architects as their project manager and who will also create pre-design plans for the building.

The Health Board is getting ready to kick off their Capital Campaign to raise the remaining funds needed for the new construction.  Current plans call for the new building to be part of the Rose Avenue Project, a group of social service buildings that would be developed between Rose and Weed Avenues at Cougar Street.

“The Health Board’s goal is to do the project debt free,”  says Krahn.  “We feel that the people in this community have  already taken on enough with the passing of the school bond and the expected future costs of the  wastewater treatment plant.  With those two obligations that the community already has, the Health Board is really dedicated to this  being a debt free project for the community.”

The Vernonia Health Board does have some buyout money they will receive from FEMA for their current building as well as donation money that is being held by Providence Health that was donated to the clinic after it was flooded in 2007.  The Health Board says they intend to approach philanthropic foundations to invest in completing the project.

The Vernonia Health Board also continues to be engaged in discussions with other communities in Columbia County as well as the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization.  Together  they have formed North Columbia Access which is working to create a regional health care delivery system that could coordinate administrative duties for local clinics and help finds ways to deliver health care to rural communities.  “It’s not just a new building,  we are really building a whole new delivery system and how health care will be provided in this community,” says Krahn.  “We’re  looking to partner with people and agencies from the state,  our regional coordinated care organization, from the county, and other agencies to create as sustainable a model as anybody could hope for in this economy.”

Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization has indicated that they would like to use the Vernonia Health Center as a pilot project and a new model for rural health care in Oregon.

The Health Board recently welcomed three new board members, DeAnna Pearl, Erica Paleck and Rebecca Brookins  “The Health Board knows the wave of change is coming  and we are taking the  opportunity to shape the way we will be impacted by that wave by being ahead of it and showing how we can react  and respond to it,” says Pearl.