Tag Archives: Vernonia Health Board

Health Center Celebrates Groundbreaking

Six years after the Flood of 2007 damaged the health clinic in Vernonia, the new Vernonia Health Center took another major step towards becoming a reality on Friday, March 28, 2014.

Over 100 friends, family, dignitaries and citizens joined members of the Vernonia Health Board to celebrate the official groundbreaking for construction of the new health care facility on a rainy but   joyous day.

The event was held at the West Oregon Electric Cooperative truck bays and included speeches, light snacks and the ceremonial first shovels of dirt, which was held inside, due to the hard spring rain that was falling.

The first shovels of dirt! (L to R) Vernonia Mayor Josette Mitchell, Senator Betsy Johnson, County Commissioner Tony Hyde, Heather Lewis, Health Board members Wendy Sears, Bob Wagner and Ralph Keasey

The first shovels of dirt! (L to R) Vernonia Mayor Josette Mitchell, Senator Betsy Johnson, County Commissioner Tony Hyde, Heather Lewis, Health Board members Wendy Sears, Bob Wagner and Ralph Keasey

Health Board President Erika Paleck welcomed the crowd to what she called a ”…long, and overdue occasion.”

In her opening remarks Paleck lauded the efforts of the many groups, organizations, foundations, civic entities, professionals and individual volunteers who worked together to move the project forward.  Paleck noted that, not only was the Health Board breaking ground on a new facility, they were also breaking new ground on the rural health care paradigm as well.  “The old school paradigm said bring in a big conglomerate,” said Paleck.  “In the new paradigm the Vernonia Health Board is entering into partnerships that emphasize  not just primary care but partnerships that educate, that support  mental health, that help clients navigate through the insurance mazes and in general support the whole human being.”

Vernonia Health Board President Erika Paleck with an image of the new Health Center.

Vernonia Health Board President Erika Paleck with an image of the new Health Center.


Paleck was referring in part to the new operational partnerships the Vernonia Health Board has created with Pacific University and The Public Health Foundation of Columbia County. These partners are continuing to develop a new model for delivery of health care services in a rural setting. Pacific University is supporting the Health Center with student internships, research and professional advice.   The Public Health Foundation of Columbia County has provided care givers and staff.   “Our new partners provide us an opportunity to deliver services in the community and at the same time train badly needed next generation health care providers,” said Paleck. Read More

City and Health Board Sign Lease Agreement

The City of Vernonia and the Vernonia Health Board have reached an agreement and signed a fifty year lease for property controlled by the City at the Rose Avenue Project.  The agreement allows the Health Board to move forward with construction of the new Health Center.

A ground breaking ceremony has been scheduled for March 28, 2014 at 12:30 PM at the West Oregon Electric Cooperative Bays.

“This has been a long process. It has involved a lot of planning and many different entities working together to craft this lease agreement,” said Heather Lewis, representing the Health Board.  “We are all glad to move forward.  This is a big project for the City of Vernonia, the Health Board and the community.  In my opinion, both sides showed their commitment to this project by the level of diligence they invested in making sure this was done right. The effort that everyone put into this is greatly appreciated. The long term benefits to the community are worth the time spent on building a project of this importance.”

Mayor Josette Mitchell was equally upbeat when discussing the final lease agreement. “It is signed, sealed and delivered!” said Mitchell.

The City Council and Health Board have met numerous times over several months in an attempt to finalize a lease agreement that both sides were comfortable signing.  The Health Center is the first entity to move forward with construction at the Rose Avenue Project site.  It is anticipated that the Vernonia Senior Center and Vernonia Cares Food Bank will relocate to the site sometime in the future.

An Opinion: Council Needs to Finalize Lease With Health Board

The Vernonia City Council and the Vernonia Health Board have been working to negotiate a lease agreement for property the City controls, so the Health Board can begin construction of the new health clinic facility.  The Health Board had hoped to break ground on their new facility in early February, but after the last City Council meeting on February 18, there was still no agreement on the use of the property, and so, construction has been unable to proceed.

Both groups have been working hard over the last several months to find common ground and iron out the details of what will be a fifty year agreement.  The two sides have discussed potential uses, length of the lease, what happens if the lease ends suddenly and other, often sticky points.  One by one they have reached agreement on almost every point, although the discussions have often become somewhat contentious and personalities seem to be getting in the way.

One item the two sides haven’t agreed on yet is rent for the property, although the Health Board maintains they had an agreement for $1 per year.   This was a point of discussion by both the members of the Health Board during “Topics From the Floor” and by Council during the City Administrator Report at the February 18 meeting.   Read More

Health Center Partnership With Pacific University Growing

The Vernonia Health Center Board recently partnered with the Vernonia Senior Center to host speakers from Pacific University for the first in a series of three conversations on wellness. Ruth Zuinga PHD, from Pacific University School of Psychology, joined a diverse group of community members to discuss “Motivation for Healthy Living”.

For an hour over a dozen community members shared barriers and successful strategies to make healthier choices and how to re-evaluate past experiences to provide motivation for self identified goals.  “It was very engaging and enjoyable. I was happily impressed.” said Marie Kran following the session. Tobie Finzel agreed. “Excellent presentation.”

According to Heather Lewis of the Vernonia Health Board,  these conversations are being offered in response to a recent community survey in which the Vernonia Health Center Board asked patients and community members how they could better provide for the needs of the community. “Offering Community Education on Health Related Topics” was high on the list. So we approached our partners at Pacific University and this three part series is the first of many we will be offering.”

“They are an enthusiastic and invested partner,” shared Lewis about the relationship with Pacific University.  “This is also being reflected in the primary care services at the Vernonia Health Clinic. The P.A. Student rotation has begun and community feedback is overwhelmingly supportive.”

Lewis added that in the last five months, the new partnership between the Vernonia Health Board and Pacific University  has brought services at the clinic from two days a week to five. Daily appointments have increased as well,  going from five to eight clients a day up to twelve to eighteen. “I think this shows the community is just as excited as we are with the addition of Pacific University to our operations team,” said Lewis.   “With seven Health Professional Schools at the University we look forward to being able to work with them on many levels for additional services for our clients.”

The next Community Health Conversation will be February 24th, 1:00 PM at the Vernonia Senior Center. Watch for fliers and postings on Facebook for more details.


Vernonia Health Board Announces Pacific University Partnership

The Vernonia Health Board has announced that they are beginning an exciting new partnership with Pacific University.

The Vernonia Health Board has developed an innovative health care model for providing rural health care.  That model includes the  creation of a three way partnership with Pacific University in addition to the Public Health Foundation of Columbia County, with whom the Health Board already has a working relationship.  The partnerships and new operating model are designed to provide long term  and sustainable health care for the Vernonia community.

The partnership with Pacific University has already begun at the current Health Center.  It will expand when the new Vernonia Health Center opens next year as part of the Rose Avenue Project.  Read More

New Health Clinic is Making More Progress

HealthClinic-webThere is more news to report on the progress of the new Vernonia Health Center facility which will be built as part of the Rose Avenue Project.

The Vernonia Health Board is scheduled to go in front of the  Vernonia Planning Commission for the first time for a  Public Hearing on Thursday October 17, 2013 at 7:00 PM.  The Health Board is seeking approval of their site plan for construction of the new facility.  The Planning Commission will consider the planned building exterior, vehicle access, parking lot and other improvements on the site. The Health Board will also ask for a lot line adjustment so they have a clearly defined project on the Rose Avenue site.

“Our planning is going well,” said Heather Lewis, spokesperson for the Health Board.  “Our plan has our street improvement requirements, our parking requirements, how the utilities will be pulled into our building, and our own storm water storage collection.  Our documents have been accepted by the city Building Department as complete and we’re excited to be going before the Planning Commission and moving forward.” Read More

Health Board Receives $250K Grant

The Vernonia Health Center Board of Directors has received notification that they have been awarded a $250,000 grant from The Ford Family Foundation.

The grant award is one of many major steps for the Health Board as they continue to move forward with plans to construct a new health center which is out of the Flood Zone.

The Ford Family Foundation grant award will go towards construction of the new health clinic which will be part of the Rose Avenue Project in Vernonia, which also includes a joint Senior Center/Food Bank building.  The current health clinic building, located on Bridge Street,  is owned by the Vernonia Health Board and was severely damaged in the 2007 Flood.  The Health Board has been offered a buyout from FEMA for their current property and building, which will be demolished after the buyout is complete.

The Ford Family Foundation grant is the first of several applications the Vernonia Health Board has submitted to foundations in the hopes of securing funding for their project.  They expect to receive a decision on an application from The Collins Foundation by the end of August and have also  made applications to The Meyer Memorial Trust, The Samuel S. Johnson Foundation, and the Oregon Community Foundation.  The Health Board is also reviewing several other grant opportunities to see if they would be a good fit for the project.  Read More

Plans Move Forward for New Health Center and Rose Avenue Project

The Vernonia Health Board (VHB) is moving forward quickly with plans to construct a new Health Center facility as part of the Rose Avenue Project in Vernonia.

Current plans call for the Rose Avenue Project to include the Vernonia Health Center, the Vernonia Senior Center, and the Vernonia Cares Food Bank.  The project would move all three facilities to a large area owned by the City of Vernonia between Rose and Weed Avenues at the south end of Vernonia.  The project also has space for some other commercial development.

The Vernonia Health Board is hoping to complete their project within the next year in order to utilize the federal funding that is available through FEMA for properties that were damaged in the Vernonia Flood of December 2007. Read More

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.

Read More