Author: Marissa McGrath

Cascade Prosthetics & Orthotics – Changing Lives by Empowering Independence


According to the Amputee Coalition, 2.1 million people live with limb loss in the United States. April is Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month. A time to celebrate the victories and lives of amputees. One company that helps this population gain more independence is Cascade Prosthetics and Orthotics.

Their partner company, Cascade Dafo, created the original DAFO® (Dynamic Ankle Foot Orthosis) in 1985. Today they manufacture a complete system of pediatric bracing. They offer a full line of prosthetic and orthotic devices, including both custom-built and off-the-shelf products.

Custom devices are created in their own fabrication lab, with special consideration to their patients’ unique needs and preferences. Their practitioners specialize in the evaluation and treatment of patients with mobility issues. With locations in Ferndale and Mt. Vernon, they work with patients to provide a full assessment, discuss functional goals, and fit them with a device to best meet their needs.

Cascade Prosthetics & Orthotics is also a long-time supporter of Unity Care NW. Joining us as a sponsor and showing their commitment to health care for everyone. Thank you, Cascade Prosthetics & Orthotics, for your support!




COVID Vaccine for Kids Ages 5-11: Unity Care NW Experts Weigh In

“As the United States neared the green light for the Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, many families were eager to start the vaccination series and others were more hesitant—and families across the board may have questions regarding the vaccine. The medical staff at Unity Care NW would like to help parents and guardians work through these questions to help make the right choice for their children.

Lisa Nelson, Pharmacy Director, and Rachel Herman, Medical Operations Manager, both of Unity Care NW, say there are a few things all parents and guardians should be aware of as they consider the COVID vaccine for their children.

“From my perspective, there’s a lot of concerns about whether the vaccine is safe, and I think it’s important to know that we have data to support that the vaccine is safe,” Nelson says. “Children aren’t at as much risk as adults, but the risk for children for a negative outcome from actually getting COVID is far more significant than any small risk [from the vaccine]…”

[Read the Full Article]

After March 12th: Indoor Masking Still Required in Medical Facilities

With declining case rates and hospitalizations across the west, California, Oregon and Washington are moving together to update their masking guidance. As of March 12th, the west coast will be adopting new indoor mask policies. Masks will still be required in certain settings including health care, corrections facilities, and long-term care facilities. The Washington State Department of Health will be issuing new guidance for K-12 schools next week so schools can prepare to implement updated safety protocols. In addition, Unity Care NW is requiring anyone entering our facilities wear a level-3 or higher mask. This is in response to guidance from the CDC on the Omicron variant in order to protect our staff and patients.



Statement from Gov. Jay Inslee, Washington:
“We’ve continued to monitor data from our state Department of Health, and have determined we are able to adjust the timing of our statewide mask requirement. While this represents another step forward for Washingtonians, we must still be mindful that many within our communities remain vulnerable. Many businesses and families will continue choosing to wear masks, because we’ve learned how effective they are at keeping one another safe. As we transition to this next phase, we will continue to move forward together carefully and cautiously.”

The Way Station

New Facility Announced to Offer a Range of Services for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness


The Way Station: A resting point on the journey.

$4 million was allocated in the state’s capital budget for a new facility where individuals and families experiencing homelessness can find a range of services to assist their transition to sustainable housing and access to social and health services. Unity Care NW, Opportunity Council, PeaceHealth, and the Whatcom County Health Department, have partnered to repurpose Whatcom County’s 1500 N. State Street property as the location for a collaborative project called The Way Station.

The Way Station will serve homeless individuals in need of hygiene, medical and behavioral health services, and/or medical respite.  Medical respite is care for homeless persons who are too ill or frail to recover from a physical illness or injury on the streets but are not ill enough to be in a hospital. Patients experiencing homelessness who are discharged from the hospital but require space where they can recuperate and heal on a temporary basis can do so safely at The Way Station. They can also access wrap around services, including help into long-term housing.

Rep. Sharon Shewmake made the funding request for the collaboration. Of the Way Station, Rep. Shewmake said, “This project hits it all—housing, caring for community, saving money and helping to get people better and in housing.”

The work of health care providers is made more difficult by a lack of community hygiene facilities. Health care providers worry about the spread of disease resulting from inadequate sanitation. Simply providing access to shower and laundry facilities, greatly reduces the risk of infection to the individual and the larger community. The Way Station will make these essential hygiene services more widely available to homeless individuals.

Project Scope & Services:

  • Recuperative respite care staffed 24-7 to provide a quiet environment for recovery from a medical event.
  • Health care services provided by Unity Care (Medical, Behavioral Health services, & Substance Use Treatment) with expanded access to laboratory testing for illness, vaccine administration, and health monitoring.
  • Hygiene services: restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and a hot room to treat belongings to prevent illness.
  • Case management services linking visitors and respite residents with social services and healthcare resources.
  • Connections to stable housing from Housing Case Managers from the Opportunity Council who will offer supportive pathways for patients to transition out of homelessness.

This unique collaboration involves many community partners who have been engaged since the start in researching models, touring facilities, and envisioning The Way Station. “We are thrilled our collaboration will be moving forward with this project, which has been a strategic priority for us for over 3 years,” said Chris Kobdish, Director of Planning & Development at Unity Care NW, “15% of our patients experience homelessness and The Way Station will make it possible to better serve them.”

The Whatcom County owned site provides adequate square footage to support the planned services and is close to transportation facilities and other social and health services including the Opportunity Council and Unity Care NW.

“The Way Station will provide a broad array of services – healthcare, hygiene, case management, and more – all at one location, significantly expanding our community’s ability to assist our homeless population,” said County Executive Satpal Sidhu. “Our partners have been instrumental in building momentum to get this project off the ground. I also greatly appreciate our legislators’ efforts in Olympia to secure state funding that, together with local resources, will help us address a gap in services for the unhoused.”

Permit applications have been submitted. The team is working with RMC Architects to finalize the facility’s design. As part of the permitting process, a Way Station Operations Plan was submitted to provide an overview of the facility’s policies, staff roles, guest agreement, emergency protocols.

To receive updates about The Way Station, email Marissa McGrath, Communications & Public Relations Associate at

To make a donation to support The Way Station, follow this link.

Everything you Need to Know about Drive-Thru COVID Testing


Surging COVID-19 cases in our community and the opening of the Canadian border have contributed to a rapid and large increase in demand for COVID-19 testing at the Whatcom County Health Department Community Testing Site at Bellingham Airport. The Health Department is mobilizing resources to scale up capacity at that location.

To help prevent additional stress at the site, please help us spread the word that testing at the Bellingham Airport site (as well as the Northwest Laboratory drive-thru testing at their main laboratory) is by appointment only.  When people arrive without an appointment to test, they must be turned away. Some of these people have verbally assaulted staff and destroyed property in anger. We ask for your help in not sending people to the airport without first scheduling an appointment.

Providers can order COVID-19 testing for their patients through Northwest Laboratory.  Drive-thru testing is currently available at the Northwest Laboratory main laboratory location on Meridian Street in Bellingham with a physician order. An appointment must be scheduled in advance of arriving for testing.

Providers should complete the NWL requisition and return to the lab:

The Community Testing Site located at the Bellingham Airport collects specimens only ordered through the Whatcom County Health Department.

  • Individuals can make appointments online at (preferred option) for symptoms/exposure and for travel testing.
  • For assistance with scheduling:
    • Symptoms or exposure to a confirmed case call WCHD at 360-778-6075 M-F between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    • Travel testing call the NWL Call Center at 360-543-6904
  • Testing for travel must be paid for directly and is not billed to insurance.

More details about testing in Whatcom County, including the Community Testing Site and other COVID-19 test providers can be found on the website

Other Testing Sites

Testing for travel is not available at Unity Care NW but is available at many pharmacies in Whatcom County, including screening tests required for travel.  There may be specific requirements from the destination country or state regarding types of specimens and tests, and even limited participating laboratories.

Test Billing

In addition, although diagnostic testing and testing of contacts of cases is billed to insurance or if not insured, to the HRSA COVID-19 Uninsured Program, testing for travel is not billed to insurance and the laboratory fee for travel testing must be paid for directly out-of-pocket.

Contacting the Health Department

360-778-6100     Main Call Line – available M-F 8:30am to 4:30pm

360-715-2588     Afterhours Answering Service – available after 4:30pm and weekends

360-778-6150     Communicable Disease Report Line – 24 hours a day 7 days a week

360-778-6103     Confidential Communicable Disease Fax – 24 hours a day 7 days a week


Molina Healthcare – Committed to Healthcare for All

Molina Healthcare was founded in 1980 by an emergency room physician with a mission to provide quality health care to those who needed it, no matter their circumstances. Molina Healthcare of Washington has been caring for individuals and families across the state of Washington for over 20 years.

Today, Molina Healthcare of Washington serves over 1 million members through government sponsored programs Apple Health (Medicaid), Medicare D-SNP, and the Health Benefit Exchange in every county across Washington state.  In Washington’s North Sound region, Molina serves over 130k members, including nearly 40k members in Whatcom County. They collaborate with community partners to eliminate access barriers and tackle health disparities to improve the health and lives of their members and communities.

Every day, Molina works to earn the continued trust of their members, providers, and community partners. Molina Healthcare of Washington has supported Unity Care NW through charitable giving. Most recently, Molina provided a contribution to support our collaborative Way Station project, which will provide a variety of services under one roof for individuals experiencing homelessness. The Company also participates in our Healthcare Champions Sponsorship program. Unity Care NW is thankful for their support and appreciative of their commitment to provide health care to all.



30 Years of Providing Care & Services – Community  Health Plan of Washington

For nearly 30 years, Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW) has been providing health care to Washington families. As Washington’s first not-for-profit to serve Apple Health members, their mission is to support individuals in making the best health care decisions for themselves and their families. Today they offer Apple Health (Medicaid) and Medicare Advantage plans in the Whatcom area.

 CHPW’s background and focus

In 1992, Washington’s community and migrant health centers (CHCs), created Community Health Plan of Washington to provide health insurance to people who were not being served by traditional insurance companies. They remain governed by community organizations (Community Health Centers) which, in turn, are governed by community members. Their work is motivated by the best interests of their members, providers and communities. They promote managed care as a way to control costs. CHPW works hand-in-hand with local community resources and community organizations to support all aspects of their members’ lives. For them, health care means putting together a whole team to support their members with their whole health at every stage of their health journey and working to remove the barriers that stand between them and their best health.

The CHPW network includes:

  • 21 Community Health Centers operating more than 140 clinics
  • More than 2,700 primary care providers
  • More than 14,900 medical specialists
  • More than 7,500 behavioral health specialists
  • More than 100 hospitals

Giving back to their communities

In the last two years, CHPW has provided funding to community-based organizations on the front lines of pandemic response, while also providing funding to CHCs like ours across the state to support initiatives addressing health disparities. As a further part of CHPW’s commitment to Washington’s communities, every full-time CHPW employee has 40 hours of paid volunteer time that they use to serve meals at local food banks, work on Washington’s hiking trails, and clean up public spaces.

CHPW is a longtime supporter of Unity Care NW. They have partnered with us on several health care expansions, including our recent North Whatcom Health Center project. And they are participants in our Health Care Champions Sponsorship Program.

 Just like Unity Care NW, Community Health Plan of Washington believes in the power of community. Because they know when we stand together, we stand stronger. Thank you, CHPW, for all that you do to ensure health care access for all and for supporting our work in so many ways.

How Cavities Threatened a Patient’s Life-Saving Kidney Transplant


Click to Hear Garron’s Story

In the midst of an international pandemic, Unity Care NW was here when Garron needed us most.

I have had the honor of being the Dental Director for Unity Care NW for more than 20 years. The fact that dental health affects all health is often on my mind, and it’s why I appreciate the whole person care model that Unity Care NW provides.  Our team has helped thousands of Whatcom County friends and neighbors access dental care, and one story that will forever be in my heart is Garron’s journey to a life-saving procedure.

After spending 11 years on dialysis, Garron was finally eligible to get on the list for a kidney transplant. His excitement was dampened when he found out that to take the next steps, he needed to be in the best health possible – which meant no dental cavities. His Medicare plan helped cover costs of his kidney failure, but it didn’t cover dental care. Garron had multiple cavities, but he couldn’t afford to care for his teeth. Luckily, a friend suggested that he contact Unity Care NW. He connected with my team and worked out a treatment plan. His spirits were lifted when he found out that he could access our Sliding Fee Discount Program, making his care affordable.

Now, Garron is cavity free and has a new kidney. He shared with my team that he felt relieved and deeply thankful for Unity Care NW’s services made possible by generous donations.

Even during a pandemic, our team continues to make sure that Garron, and thousands of others, receive top-notch medical, dental, pharmacy, and behavioral health services . At Unity Care NW we know that health can’t wait and everyone deserves the opportunity to live their healthiest life. That’s why every donation made to Unity Care NW is so vital to ensuring that the amount of money a person has does not determine how healthy they get to be.

Carrie Shane, DDS
Dental Director
Unity Care NW


Free COVID-19 Rapid Tests Now Available in Whatcom County

COVID-19 rapid tests are now available at various distribution points throughout Whatcom County, thanks to a federal program providing tests through community health centers.

The City of Bellingham received 16,200 tests this week on behalf of Unity Care NW, which lacked the storage capacity for such a large number of tests. The tests have been distributed among a range of community partners, with a focus on underserved communities and businesses in the service industry.

The general public can obtain tests at the following locations (quantities are limited and availability is not guaranteed):

● Bellingham Fire Station 1, 1800 Broadway, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., limit of two test kits per family (each kit contains two tests).

● Some Whatcom County fire district stations, please contact individual stations to confirm.

● Community food banks, please contact individual locations to confirm.

Whatcom County Library System locations have also been receiving and distributing test kits from
Unity Care NW. Quantities are limited to five per family per week. Demand has been strong. Please contact individual county library branches (outside Bellingham city limits) to confirm availability ( Please note: Bellingham Public Library is a separate organization, and City of Bellingham distribution is through the Fire Department, not through Bellingham Public Library.

Unity Care NW, a Federally Qualified Community Health Center, is able to receive free at-home, FDA-authorized COVID-19 testing supplies as part of the Biden Administration’s Path Out of the Pandemic COVID-19 Action Plan, through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Defense for distribution to their communities. When the national supply permits, Unity Care NW is able to order test kits to share with the wider community, and hopes to receive more by the end of February.

Whatcom County residents also have two options for ordering free rapid at-home COVID-19 tests. Four free tests can be ordered from the federal government through or by calling 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489). In addition, up to five free tests can be ordered from the Washington State Department of Health at or by calling 1-800-525-0127.

Umpqua Bank – Committed to Community Since 1953

Umpqua Bank – Committed to Community Since 1953

It all started in Canyonville, Oregon, a timber town nestled along the South Umpqua River. A group of pioneers who were part of this tight-knit community came together to build what they needed: a school, a church, a grocery store, a diner, an auto shop. And when the citizens of Canyonville needed a better place than the local watering hole to cash their checks, they came together and built a bank.

Milt Herbert, one of Umpqua Bank’s founding fathers (second from left), and crew.

Since South Umpqua State Bank opened their doors back in 1953, they’ve grown a lot (with multiple locations now), but their values have stayed as strong as their roots. They believe in the power of community. They believe in giving back.

Umpqua Bank supports all of the communities where they have branches. They give to charities, provide volunteer hours, and have a matching gift program for employees. They focus on boosting financial health and engaging with their communities through nonprofit partnerships. Here are some amazing stats from their 2020 Giving and Community Benefit Highlights:

  • $3.5 Million – Total charitable giving and sponsorships
  • 843 – Number of community organizations those grants supported
  • 100% – Percent of counties where Umpqua operates that received grants
  • 21,513 – Volunteer hours completed

November 15th is National Philanthropy Day, a great time to take a moment to acknowledge the amazing supporters that make Unity Care NW’s work possible. Umpqua Bank is a longtime supporter of Unity Care NW, sponsoring our work and collaborating with us to secure a PPP Loan during this difficult time of pandemic. They are also participants in our Health Care Champions Sponsorship Program. Click here to find out how your organization can participate in this program and be part of ensuring health care access for everyone.

From all of us at Unity Care NW, thank you, Umpqua Bank, for joining us in the journey to create a stronger and healthier community for everyone to thrive.