Category: CurrentNews

Apple Health Facts 

A blue Services Card with the state of and seal of Washington in a darker blue

Everyone who has an Apple Health plan will have a Blue ProviderOne card like this one.

Apple Health is Washington state’s program through which people who are eligible can obtain free or low-cost health insurance. It is a vital means by which those who are traditionally overlooked or underserved can access critical health care without being overly cost-burdened. While many are familiar with the existence of Apple Health, not everyone is aware of or knowledgeable about the program and what it has to offer. Read our Washington Apple Health FAQ for general Apple Health facts and information. To learn more or to find out if you’re eligible for Apple Health, Unity Care has Enrollment Specialists standing by to help. 

What is Apple Health insurance? Is Washington Apple Health Medicaid?

Of all the questions we are routinely asked about Apple Health, these are the most common. Apple Health is, simply put, Washington state’s free or low-cost insurance program. And yes, Apple Health is indeed Medicaid and offers all of the coverages and protections that come with Medicaid. You may also occasionally hear Apple Health referred to by the name one of five Managed Care Organizations such as Molina or UnitedHealthcare Community Plan, but all of those exist under the umbrella of Apple Health (aka Medicaid).

How does Apple Health work?

As touched on by the previous question, Apple Health delegates care to five managed care organizations in Washington: Amerigroup Washington, Community Health Plan of Washington, Coordinated Care of Washington, Molina Healthcare of Washington, and UnitedHealthcare Community Plan. When you qualify for Apple Health, you will be issued a ProviderOne card and your care will be assigned to one of these MCOs, who may provide you with an additional insurance card. From there, using your Apple Health coverage is similar to that of any insurance company—you find an in-network care provider such as Unity Care, make an appointment and see your doctor or health care provider. 

How to qualify for Apple Health?

Washington Apple Health is an income-limited program. To qualify, an individual adult cannot be on Medicare and must have a monthly household income under 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Income limits are determined on an annual basis. Apple Health is open to adults ages 19-65, pregnant individuals, children, noncitizens, those in foster care and other underserved groups. A Unity Care Enrollment Specialist can help you determine your eligibility.

Which Apple Health plan is best?

As with standard insurance coverage, there is no “best” plan per se. Each Managed Care Organization offers its own features and benefits. Some offer plans that excel in providing pediatric care, while others are well-suited to those whose primary health goal is to prevent and manage illness. All operate under the oversight of the Washington State Health Care Authority. The best Apple Health plan is the one that’s right for you, your health and the health of your family. 

What does Apple Health cover?

Apple Health coverage is fairly comprehensive. Covered services include primary care, emergency visits, pediatric care, dental visits, maternity care, vision care, prescriptions and more. The goal of Apple Care is to help ensure that those under a certain income level can access the medical care they need. 

Does Apple Health cover dental? 

This is one of the most frequently asked questions about Apple Health and we understand why—according to the American Dental Association, there are an estimated 2 million visits to emergency rooms each year for dental pain. The good news is that Apple Health does indeed cover adult and pediatric dental care. 

Does Washington Apple Health cover vision?

Unlike many standard insurance policies for which vision requires an additional policy or addendum, vision coverage is included as part of Apple Health. 

Does Washington Apple Health cover therapy?

Yes, Apple Health covers mental health services such as behavioral health and talk therapy as well as acute/inpatient mental health care for those in crisis, state psychiatric hospitals, specialized services for American Indians and Alaska Natives, mental health care for children, peer support and more. 

Can I use Washington Apple Health out of state?

With rare exceptions, most Apple Health plans are limited to Washington residents. Apple Health recipients who are out of state temporarily and find themselves in a situation where they are in need of medical care should contact their managed care plan or the Health Care Authority’s Medical Assistance Customer Service Center.


Have more questions about Washington Apple Health? Unity Care has Enrollment Specialists available to help answer your inquiries as well as to assist you with eligibility requirements, enrollment and renewal. Please contact Unity Care at (360) 788-2669 or make an appointment online with an Enrollment Specialist today.



Puget Sound Energy – Bringing Light and Support to Our Communities since 1873

A mother and child look at a yellow school bus with "Early Learning and Family Services" written on it.
From gas lights to wind power projects, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has a rich history and deep roots in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to providing services to over 2 million residents in 10 counties, they are committed to partnering with local groups to create stronger more equitable communities for all.

Recently PSE provided a brand-new electric school bus to the Opportunity Council’s East Whatcom Regional Resource Center (EWRRC) for their East Whatcom County Mt. Baker Head Start program. The acquisition of this electric bus is part of PSE’s Up & Go Electric pilot program focused on equity in transportation electrification, one of PSE and the PSE Foundation’s many grants programs.

This bus, which PSE purchased from Blue Bird, comes with a dual-port level 2 charging station that PSE installed on the resource center property. The charging station will power the electric bus while the extra charging port will be available for other invited guests of the resource center.

PSE is working to advance the equitable adoption of transportation electrification in our region, and partnerships with community-based organizations enable them to build a robust EV network. They want to ensure that everyone, regardless of income and geographic location, can access the benefits of electric mobility.

PSE’s commitment to equitable access extends to a variety of projects and programs throughout the ten counties they serve. They are one of Unity Care NW’s Health Care Champion Sponsors, supporting our work to ensure everyone in our community has access to high-quality care even if they can’t afford it. Thank you, PSE, for your support and your efforts in so many communities across the Pacific Northwest.

What Does it Take to Bend Not Break? Make a Difference Before Disaster Strikes

Community members organize donations of necessities for flood victims in a church.On November 15 every year National Philanthropy Day takes place – a day that signifies the importance of working together for the common good. Whatcom Community Foundation exemplifies this concept in a variety of ways, like their support of our work as a Health Care Champion Sponsor and the incredible efforts they do to support resilience every day. In this guest column, they shine a light on their work to help rebuild after the floods of 2021:

Are we a resilient community? What does that look like?

A year ago this month, Whatcom County experienced the largest natural disaster in its history. Catastrophic flooding caused by severe rainstorms killed one resident, displaced more than 500, and caused more than $150 million in confirmed damages; an elementary school was destroyed and 2,000 homes — including 80% of the those in Sumas — were damaged.

As part of the private, community-based response, we were there. And we’re here to tell you: resilience looks like community — neighbors helping neighbors, chipping in, stepping up and Macgyvering their way through troubled waters to help people reach high ground, and then doing it again and again until neighbors are not just safe but made closer to whole: physically, emotionally, financially.

Of course, resilience is also robust infrastructure, flexible resources, strong leadership, sharp communication, clear roles and established protocols. Resilience is having a plan, along with the courage and imagination to change it to meet the moment.

Above all, resilience depends on relationships, best forged during ordinary times to lean on for the extraordinary moments when community support is the difference between bending and breaking. We cannot emphasize this enough. Trusted relationships — between public, private and nonprofit leaders, among neighbors and community partners — ensure respect, speed action and allow for creative solutions.

The Community Foundation set up the Resilience Fund several years ago with the idea that it would be activated during a disaster. More than $3 million was granted to area nonprofits for COVID-19 relief. Then came the floods. As of October 2022, the Community Foundation has granted $2.6 million for flood relief and recovery. These heroic numbers are all thanks to the stunning generosity of local businesses and neighbors. Neighborliness in action – resilience.

Resilience Fund dollars initially addressed humanitarian needs, then shifted to recovery efforts including supporting the Whatcom Long Term Recovery Group (WLTRG)  disaster case managers. While lasting solutions for housing, infrastructure and business recovery hinge on public funding, the WLTRG formed as a nonprofit dedicated to recovering and rebuilding following not just this, but all disasters.

Because there will be more. Experts predict heavy rainfall events — like the “atmospheric river” storms that led to flooding last year— to be more frequent and severe. Then there’s “the” earthquake or another pandemic or something else.

We’re all neighbors. County or city, red or blue; brown, black or white; rich, poor or neither: none of that matters when your house is on fire. What does resilience look like? You. And me. Us. The more we prepare and care for each other now, the better off everyone is when disaster strikes. When we strengthen relationships—across the street, across sectors and across the county— we bolster our ability to support each other equitably before, during and after a disaster or crisis. That’s what resilience looks like.

-Authored by the Whatcom Community Foundation, a Unity Care NW Health Care Champion Sponsor


Learn more about the Whatcom Community Foundation Resilience Fund here.

Learn more about becoming a Unity Care NW Health Care Champion Sponsor here.

Open Enrollment for Health Insurance is Here and We Can Help

Woman signing up and joining the Affordable Care Act open enrollment before deadline.

The Marketplace Open Enrollment at runs from November 1, 2022 to January 15, 2023. Consumers who enroll in Washington state health insurance by midnight on December 15 can get full-year coverage that starts January 1.

Washington Health Insurance Coverage is Affordable! This year, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, more people qualify for help purchasing quality health coverage during the WA state open enrollment period. If you have looked for medical insurance in Washington state before, it is worth a second look:
4 out of 5 customers will be able to find a plan during WA state open enrollment for $10/month or less after subsidies.
With the new law, millions of people will continue to qualify for tax credits that lower their premiums.

Quality Plans! These are quality, comprehensive health plans that offer doctor visits, emergency care, behavioral health care, preventive care, hospital care, and prescription drugs. There is a Washington state health insurance plan to suit nearly everyone.

Help is Available! Unity Care NW’s certified Insurance Navigators can help you for free. Call our health insurance navigators today! Call (360) 788-2669

UCNW Prescribes Empathy for Confronting the Crisis of Homelessness

A person holds the hand of someone in a hospital bed.

Son holding father’s hand at the hospital

Homelessness has been on the rise across the country since 2016[1]. In places like Whatcom County, the lack of available housing makes homelessness an even more prevalent and visible issue. Most Washingtonians can relate to the sense that housing opportunities are becoming further and further out of reach. The economics of post-pandemic life and the high cost of living in our region have deepened financial worries for everyone. As inflation and interest rate changes threaten to worsen the housing market and exacerbate challenges for small business owners, economic tensions lead to stress that can result in conflict. Negative interactions between housed and unhoused people are particularly discouraging for anyone hoping we can come together as a community to end homelessness.

Organizations that work to provide services to people experiencing homelessness have unique insight into this public health crisis. Unity Care NW (UCNW), a local non-profit community health center, provides comprehensive health care to people who may otherwise be unable to afford it. Their staff see firsthand, the negative health impacts of homelessness on their patients. Many have symptoms of trauma and are made sicker by their lack of access to basic hygiene facilities. With 15% of UCNW’s patients experiencing homelessness – compared to an average of 8% at other community health centers nationwide — UCNW resolved to demonstrate its conviction that everyone who can do something to combat homelessness must do something.


This launched a partnership for UCNW with PeaceHealth, Whatcom County, and Opportunity Council to better serve the health and hygiene needs of people experiencing homelessness in Whatcom County. The result of this collaboration, a new facility called The Way Station, will provide shower, laundry, and restroom facilities, as well as respite beds for people experiencing a medical event who have nowhere to recuperate. The Way Station will also connect clients to Unity Care NW’s mental health and substance use disorder treatment and Opportunity Council’s housing support services.


The facility will be housed in the County-owned building at 1500 N State Street. Renovations are scheduled to begin in early 2023, with hopes of opening in fall of 2023.


Empathy is the Answer

While researching successful hygiene center models, The Way Station partners visited Urban Rest Stop in Seattle. A common theme in conversations with experts on the issue of homelessness has been the power of dignity to restore hope and create pathways out of homelessness. “The Urban Rest Stop has allowed me to clean up in order to help me get employment,” one client said in a testimonial. “They have treated me fairly and with dignity. Without these services, it would have been infinitely more difficult to improve my situation.” The Way Station will model the empathetic, trauma-informed approach that Unity Care NW has been using to effectively engage with patients and neighbors including those experiencing homelessness.


UCNW recently brought Ryan Dowd, the Executive Director of the second largest homeless shelter in America, to train its staff in using empathy-driven approaches to compassionately and effectively de-escalate situations and manage conflict. UCNW also partnered with the City of Bellingham, Bellingham Public Library, and the Mount Baker Theatre to offer this same training to more than 800 staff from local businesses and nonprofits. Empathy doesn’t mean excusing and accepting all of a person’s negative behaviors, it just asks that we approach others with awareness that their unique experience and biology impact their way of moving through the world. This can make all the difference for a person on the journey out of homelessness.


A person doesn’t need to be specially trained to help in the fight against homelessness and an organization doesn’t have to be focused on social services to contribute to addressing the housing crisis. Everyone one can do something to move the needle on homelessness. Unity Care NW is excited to deepen its own commitment to disrupting the cycle of homelessness. Partnering on The Way Station, with a trauma-informed and empathetic approach, will work to remove barriers to basic health and hygiene needs and help more people get into permanent housing.


To find out more about The Way Station or to get involved, go to



The mission of Unity Care NW (UCNW) is to increase the years of healthy life in the people and communities we serve. UCNW is a federally-qualified health center with sites in Bellingham and Ferndale. Established in 1982, the non-profit organization provides medical, dental, behavioral health, and pharmacy services to over 22,000 Whatcom County residents who consider Unity Care NW their medical home. Services are available for all people regardless of their ability to pay.


[1] Source: The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress. January 2021. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Way Station

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

 The Way Station: A resting point on the journey.

People experiencing homelessness face disproportionate challenges to maintaining their health and wellbeing. When they suffer an illness or injury and must seek care, unhoused individuals’ health care outcomes are made worse by a lack of specialized healthcare, access to basic hygiene facilities, and medical respite beds. Health care providers worry about the effect of these gaps in patient care on the health of individuals and 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 to the community at large. Providing medical respite for those too ill or frail to recover from a medical event but not sick enough to stay in a hospital, can also greatly improve the healing process for those who would otherwise have to try to convalesce on the streets.

Recognizing this need in our region, 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. The Way Station will provide individuals and families experiencing homelessness with a range of health and social services to assist their transition to sustainable housing. This unique facility will serve people in need of hygiene, medical and behavioral health care, and/or medical respite. Patients experiencing homelessness who are discharged from the hospital can recuperate and heal safely at The Way Station and access wrap around services, including help into long-term housing.

Project Scope & Services:

  • Medical and Behavioral Health care services provided by Unity Care NW with expanded access to laboratory testing for illness, vaccine administration, and health monitoring.
  • Hygiene services: restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities.
  • Medical respite care staffed 24-7 to provide a quiet environment for recovery from a medical event.
  • 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.

Project Funding

The project has been made possible by generous contributions from supporters and local donors (see full list below) and has been awarded government funding at the federal, state, and local level. Most recently, The Way Station received a grant for $1.5M from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of an historic funding package to help communities across the country provide housing and supportive services to people in unsheltered settings.

“Homelessness is a crisis, and it is solvable. Housing with supportive services solves homelessness. That’s why, for the first time the federal government is deploying targeted resources to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness in unsheltered settings or in rural areas,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “With these grants and vouchers, HUD is filling this gap and giving communities the resources and tools to improve housing and health outcomes for people on the streets, in encampments, under bridges, and in rural areas.”

State Senator. Sharon Shewmake, who secured a $4M funding in the state’s capital budget request for The Way Station in 2022. said, “This project hits it all— caring for community, saving money and helping to get people better and in housing.”

“Our partners have been instrumental in building momentum to get this project off the ground.” said County Executive Satpal Sidhu. “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.”

The partnering organizations have been engaged since the start in researching models, touring facilities, and envisioning The Way Station.

Location and Site Renovation

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.

Final building permits were issued in May of 2023 issued and renovations will begin in August of 2023 with an opening date scheduled for 2024. 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




We extend our deepest appreciation for these partners and supporters of the Way Station


Bee Works
Bellingham Bay Rotary
Chuckanut Health Foundation
Community Health Plan of Washington
First Federal Community Foundation
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Jerry H. Walton Foundation
Molina Healthcare Of WA
Mount Baker Foundation
North Sound ACH
Puget Sound Energy and Puget Sound Energy Foundation
The Tax Payers of Washington State
The Timken Foundation of Canton
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Whatcom County


Andria Bensuaski
Don and Karen Berry
Steen Brochner-Nielsen
Brockmann Family in loving memory of Jason Brockmann
Mark and Charlene Brooks
Don and Michelle Cook
Tamera Devoss
Pamela Englett
Elizabeth Gabay
Jason and Angela Gum
Shanon Hardie
Laura Hutchinson
Joanna Jamco
Carolyn Jones
Will and Jodi Joyce
Kelly and Kevin Kaemingk
Brita Kiffney
Jan Klineburger in memory of Larry Thompson
Christina Kobdish
Susan Kramer-Pope
Steve and Cathi LeCocq
Tami J. Livingston
Jacqueline McCauley
Wanda McGlasson and Alan Heezen
Sheila McGrath
Marissa McGrath
Laird McHattie and Nathan Marino
Neal and Carol Nicolay
Holly Orban
Marry and Buzz Ostlund
Sandra Portz
Tim R.
Rebecca Frevert and Desmond Skubi in memory of Dr. Milt Schayes and Larry Thompson
Becky Spithill
The Stuit Family
Leslie Sweeney
Mistie and Michael Taylor
Tamara Tregoning and Caleb Sanders
Rebecca Unger
Whatcom Community Foundation Funds:

Posel Gockley Fund
Elizabeth & Richard Gossett Foundation Fund

Heather Whitaker, ARNP
Joshua Wirth
Anonymous (10)

Current as of August 11, 2023. All efforts were taken to ensure accuracy of this list. Please contact with any questions.

COVID Vaccines for Children Under 5

The pandemic’s tide began to turn when vaccines rollouts began worldwide. With vaccine availability for children under age 5 rapidly approaching, Unity Care NW’s Associate Medical Director Kate Wojnicki at Unity Care NW sat down with WhatcomTalk to discuss how vaccines work, common misconceptions associated with the vaccine, and what parents can look forward to with vaccine approval for their youngest children.


Grandparents great their infant grandchild between a pain of glass. Text reads: "Why get vaccinated: Getting vaccinated helps keep you, your family, and your community healthy and safe."

CEO Jodi Joyce on Needed Hygiene Services for Patients Experiencing Homelessness

A short haired woman with glasses smiles broadly in a professional headshot.

Jodi Joyce, CEO Unity Care NW

What if there was an apartment you really wanted but you didn’t have anywhere to take a shower or clean your clothes before you met the landlord to apply for it? Or, what if you didn’t have regular access to soap and water at all? This is the daily reality for too many unhoused people in our community, and Unity Care NW and its partners have a plan to change that.

Bellingham has become a community where fewer and fewer people can find a place to live, so it’s no surprise more people are finding themselves on the street/homeless/with no options. Homelessness is a Public Health Emergency in Whatcom County with consequences that affect the health of our entire community. Solutions seem impossible, but there is an abundance of both expertise and empathy locally to help individuals in need get healthy and into housing.

The recent Point in Time Census for Homeless Residents showed a modest improvement in our county after years of increasing rates of homelessness. The Way Station will harness this positive momentum and provide a place where people in Bellingham can take a shower, do their laundry, and go to the bathroom. It will also do so much more to help restore dignity and hope for people in need of permanent housing. As CEO of Unity Care NW, a non-profit health center that offers everyone in our community access to high-quality care, I am excited our team is partnering to bring together hygiene as well as medical and mental health services under one roof.

Every year, Unity Care NW serves more than 3,500 people experiencing homelessness. We see many illnesses that could have been avoided if our patients had access to soap and water and a place to rest when they are sick. We see people with injuries and wounds that they can’t keep clean and people recovering from a surgery with nowhere to recuperate safely.  And situations like this are frustrating because they feed into a cycle that keeps people homeless.

Before the pandemic, Unity Care NW began to collaborate with PeaceHealth, the Opportunity Council, and the Whatcom Health Department to address community needs. With these other experts on homelessness, we started to ask: What if we designed a place where laundry, shower, and bathroom facilities were available to the public? What if we connected those same people to medical and mental health care including drug use treatment when they needed it? And respite beds for people referred from the hospital who need a place to recover from an injury or illness? And what if we had staff on site to help people navigate the housing system and get them a permanent place to live?

And that is what we decided to do. With this coalition of health and social service organizations, we have designed a unique facility that brings together models that have been successful in other cities. Thanks to funding support, both private and governmental, we can remodel the Whatcom County-owned location at 1500 N State Street in Bellingham later this year. In order to make these services sustainable, we will need ongoing support and contributions from local individuals and organizations.

If we can come together to support this innovative solution to address the physical and mental health of those in need, The Way Station will help people experiencing homelessness maintain their dignity, improve their health, and get into housing. And these positive effects will ripple out to make a stronger community where everyone can thrive.




We extend our deepest appreciation to partners and supporters of the Way Station

Chuckanut Health Foundation
Community Health Plan of Washington
First Federal Community Foundation
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Jerry H. Walton Foundation
Molina Healthcare Of WA
Mount Baker Foundation
Puget Sound Energy Foundation
The Tax Payers of Washington State
Whatcom County

Don and Karen and Berry
Steen Brochner-Nielsen
Brockmann Family in loving memory of Jason Brockmann
Tamera Devoss
Pamela Englett
Jason and Angela Gum
Shanon Hardie
Joanna Jamco
Will and Jodi Joyce
Jan Klineburger
Christina Kobdish
Tami J. Livingston
Jacqueline McCauley
Marissa McGrath
Mary and Buzz Ostlund
Tim R.
Rebecca Spithill  in Memory of Larry Thompson
The Stuit Family
Leslie Sweeney
Mistie and Michael Taylor
Tamara Tregoning and Caleb Sanders
Anonymous (4 donors)


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