Category: Uncategorized

Umpqua Bank – Supporting Community, Expanding Homeownership

Since Umpqua Bank opened their doors back in 1953, they’ve grown a lot (with multiple locations now), but their values of supporting communities have stayed strong. At Umpqua Bank, they believe in a shared responsibility to make this world a better place, starting with how they help neighbors thrive every day. They exhibit these principals by being one of Unity Care NW’s Health Care Champion Sponsors, giving back to all the communities that they have branches in, and a new partnership to support housing access.

A photo of playful parents holding sons’s hands in new house with cardboard boxes.

Umpqua Bank and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) (another Unity Care NW supporter!) recently announced that they are partnering to expand homeownership for communities of color and rural communities on the West Coast through locally-driven strategies that break down financing barriers and fuel wealth-building. Through their Umpqua Bank Charitable Foundation, they are contributing $500,000 in targeted capacity-building support noteworthy for the way it prioritizes local strategies that creatively address the homeownership challenges of specific low-to-moderate income communities across Oregon, Washington, and California. Beneficiaries will include a diverse array of communities facing barriers to ownership, including people of color and, in rural areas, people employed in the agricultural sector, whose housing costs outmatch wages.

Umpqua Bank’s 2021 Giving and Community Benefits Highlight:

  • $3.9 Million – Total charitable giving and sponsorships
  • 774 – Number of community organizations those grants supported
  • 100% – Percent of counties where Umpqua operates that received grants
  • 18,466 – Volunteer hours completed

Thanks for all you do for so many communities Umpqua Bank and thank you for being one of our amazing Health Care Champion Sponsors!

It’s Time to Get Childhood Immunizations Back on Track

We’re all still in a pandemic recovery period and getting our lives back on schedule can be chaotic, from preventative healthcare to regular haircuts and beyond. For those with the next generation’s health in their hands, pediatric immunizations are especially important. Lately, many children have fallen behind on their vaccine schedules. Elisabeth Gehringer, D.O. and Associate Medical Director at Unity Care NW, recently sat down with WhatcomTalk to help encourage parents get back into the groove of their kids’ healthcare.

Why We Are Behind

“I’ve been seeing a pattern that kids have been falling behind on immunizations — the main challenge was related to the pandemic due to delay in care, and the result of those challenges was falling behind on their vaccine schedules,” says Dr. Gehringer. “Vaccines are a really important part of the well child check-ups that we have built into our visits.” Read the full article.

Celebrating American Heart Month, Shining a Light on CHPW

A person ina yellow sweater and blue jeans holds a small red heart in their hands.

February is American Heart Month. A great time to strengthen your heart and start healthy habits. Did you know that your heart is the strongest muscle in your body? That’s why Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW) provides support and resources to strengthen your heart and your health. Check out this article about Heart-Healthy Living on their website.

Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW) has been providing health care to Washington families for more than 30 years. They are Washington’s first not-for-profit to serve Apple Health members. In 1992, Washington’s community and migrant health centers (CHCs), created CHPW to provide health insurance to people who were not being served by traditional insurance companies. From that beginning, they are governed by community organizations (Community Health Centers) like Unity Care NW which, in turn, are governed by community members. Today they remain a not-for-profit based in Washington providing health care for Washingtonians. Here in Whatcom county, they offer Apple Health (Medicaid) and Medicare plans.

CHPW By the NumbersCommunity Plan of Washington logo of a multicolored sunflower
CHPW is connected throughout Washington. The Community Health Plan of Washington network includes:

  • 21 Community Health Centers operating more than 190 clinics
  • More than 3,100 primary care providers
  • Nearly 15,000 medical specialists
  • Nearly 8,000 behavioral health specialists
  • Over 100 hospitals
  • More than 130 Affiliate Providers at 393 locations

They are also one of Unity Care NW’s Health Care Champion sponsors supporting our work to provide affordable whole person health care to everyone. Thank you CHPW for everything you do to create stronger and healthier communities!

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

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.”

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 respite beds and access to basic hygiene facilities. 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:

  • 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.

The team is awaiting approval of final building permits and is working with RMC Architects to finalize the facility’s design. Renovations will begin in the coming months and are anticipated to be completed about 9 months after they begin. 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
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
Tamera Devoss
Pamela Englett
Elizabeth Gabay
Posel Gockley Fund of the Whatcom Community Foundation
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
Steve and Cathi LeCocq
Tami J. Livingston
Jacqueline McCauley
Wanda McGlasson and Alan Heezen
Marissa McGrath
Sheila McGrath
Laird McHattie and Nathan Marino
Craig Miller
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
Nathan Brown and Becky Spithill
The Stuit Family
Leslie Sweeney
Mistie and Michael Taylor
Tamara Tregoning and Caleb Sanders
Rebecca Unger
Heather Whitaker, ARNP
Joshua Wirth
Anonymous (8)

Current as of February 8, 2023. All efforts were taken to ensure accuracy of this list. Please contact with any questions.

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!