Category: Uncategorized

Make Your Contribution Today

 

Unity Care NW goes beyond the exam room to provide whole person care, your support makes it possible.

I know what some of our patients are going through because I have personally experienced homelessness. One thing that many don’t realize about homelessness is how easy it is to slip through the cracks of multiple systems. Back then, I needed extra help, a hand up. Now, being in a role where I get to help those most in need in our community is truly rewarding.

I started my position at Unity Care NW as Population Health Manager during the height of COVID-19. Population Health addresses factors that affect overall health of people and communities. During the pandemic, needs in our community increased: a record-breaking number of individuals experiencing homelessness, families struggling to make ends meet due to increased costs, and additional needs not covered by insurance. So, our team increased too. Increased our efforts to get individuals enrolled in insurance, more outreach to unhoused populations, and new programs to fill crucial gaps.

One new program, Hand-Up for Health, covers costs of items or short-term services that our patients can’t afford but insurance won’t cover. It’s the last stop after all other options have been explored. A patient living in poverty who was struggling with painful swelling in their legs couldn’t get up and down their stairs. Insurance covered a lift mechanism but was unable to pay for a chair. With our new program we were able to say yes to this patient’s request. We purchased a chair and got her back to independent living.

Unity Care NW provides health care for the mind and body, but we also work with patients outside the exam room to reduce barriers to living a healthy life. In addition to Hand-Up for Health, we provide mobile dental services to all the school districts in Whatcom County. We have a pharmacy program that covers costs for prescriptions when patients can’t afford their medications. Our dietitian provides one on one services and healthy cooking demos. Community Health Workers
connect unhoused patients to a variety of services. All these programs, and more, are made possible through donations.

I invite you to make a donation and help ensure that everyone in our community has the tools and support they need to live their healthiest life. Warm wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season,

Nicole Fields 
Population Health Manager
Unity Care NW

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 HealthCare.gov runs from November 1, 2022 to January 15, 2023. Consumers who enroll by midnight on December 15 can get full year coverage that starts January 1.

Coverage is Affordable! This year, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, more people qualify for help purchasing quality health coverage. If you have looked for health coverage before, it is worth a second look:
• 4 out of 5 customers will be able to find a plan 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.

Help is Available! Unity Care NW’s certified Insurance Navigators can help you for free. 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 unitycarenw.org/health-and-hygiene

ABOUT UNITY CARE NW

 

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 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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 marissa.mcgrath@ucnw.org.

 

 

 

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

Organizations
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
PeaceHealth
Puget Sound Energy Foundation
The Tax Payers of Washington State
Whatcom County

Individuals
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)

 

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!

 

 

 

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

Organizations
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
PeaceHealth
Puget Sound Energy Foundation
The Tax Payers of Washington State
Whatcom County

Individuals
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)

 

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]