Category: Uncategorized

Order At-Home Rapid COVID Tests

There are now two ways to get at-home rapid COVID tests delivered to your door:

  1. The Federal program at
  2. The State program at

The Federal Program

Every home in the U.S. can order 4 free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests. The tests are completely free—there are no shipping costs and you don’t need to enter a credit card number. Go to to place your order.


The State Program

People in Washington can also order free, rapid COVID-19 tests delivered to their homes. Each household can place one order per residential address;  each order comes with up to five rapid tests. People are not able to order for family, friends or others. There is a minimal supply as demand for testing nationwide has surged in the past few weeks. The state will replenish as supply increases. Order your COVID Tests 

Language assistance is available for anyone with limited English or internet access; 1-800-525-0127, then press #.

If there are no tests currently available on the Say Yes! COVID Test website, you can still submit their information (name/address), to be put on the waiting list. Tests will be sent to you when they are restocked.


What to Do if You Test Positive

  • Isolate – Stay home and avoid contact with others, including household members, by stay in a separate room.
  • Confirm your results – Unity Care Patients can call 360-676-6177 to schedule a COVID PCR test.
  • Report your resultsto the state and anyone you have come in contact with in the last 7 days.

Read the full recommendations for those who test positive with an at home test here.


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]

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.

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


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


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.

Whatcom Community Foundation Works to Make Whatcom County Better For Everyone

Left to right: WCF Board Member Mike Bates, WCF President and CEO Mauri Ingram, and WCF Board Chair Aaron Brown.

What if everyone in our community had what they needed to thrive? This is the question and vision that drives Whatcom Community Foundation (WCF).

As one of more than 750 community foundations nationwide, WCF is a charitable organization created through gifts from people who care about a particular place. These funds are pooled for greater impact, and invested in ideas and activities that take a cooperative approach toward making Whatcom County better. In other words, WCF transforms generosity into fuel for what matters most to our community.

“The healthier the place, the healthier the people,” says CEO Mauri Ingram. “One of our goals is to address the factors that underpin good health – things like economic and housing stability, access to healthy food and places to exercise, social connections and support networks — to provide everyone in Whatcom County with an equal chance at a full, healthy life.”

Here is the full list of the areas that the Whatcom Community Foundation focuses on:

  • Community Building
  • Birth to bright future
  • Feeding our local food system
  • Building an inclusive local economy
  • Homes for all
  • Health & Wellness
  • Environment
  • Arts & Culture

Whatcom Community Foundation is a longtime supporter of Unity Care NW. This community anchor has been an integral partner in helping to expand our dental access in Bellingham as well as supporting the creation of our new North Whatcom Health Center. Unity Care NW is also the recipient of donations from individuals who maintain Donor Advised Funds at the Whatcom Community Foundation. In addition to all of this support, 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.

Recently Whatcom Community Foundation updated and refreshed their website, click here to learn more about the great work they are doing in our community. Thank you, Whatcom Community Foundation, for joining us in the journey to create a stronger and healthier community for everyone to thrive.



The Fascinating Global History of Vaccination

Before vaccination, there was inoculation, a process of producing immunity by introducing an infectious agent onto abraded skin or a mucus membrane. Inoculation was used for thousands of years across many cultures to prevent smallpox, a disfiguring and sometimes deadly disease.



Several accounts describe smallpox inoculation as practiced in China and India in the 1500s. It is difficult to pinpoint when the practice began, as some sources claim it dates back as early as 200 BCE.

17th century Chinese Emperor K’ang, survived a case of smallpox, and then wrote about inoculation in a letter to his descendants:

“…I had it used upon you, my sons and daughters, and you all passed through the smallpox in the happiest possible manner…. In the beginning, when I had it tested on one or two people, some old women taxed me with extravagance, and spoke very strongly against inoculation. The courage which I summoned up to insist on its practice has saved the lives and health of millions of men. This is an extremely important thing, of which I am very proud.”

The method used during K’ang’s time involved grinding up smallpox scabs and blowing the dust into a person’s nostril.


Africa & America

In 1721, a ship arrived in Boston from the West Indies with smallpox on board, and despite precautions, a full-blown epidemic started that infected roughly half of the town’s 11,000 residents. An African-born enslaved man named Onesimus, shared his experience with Cotton Mather, the town’s problematic leading minister and Onesimus’ legal owner. When Mather asked Onesimus if he’d ever had smallpox, he answered “yes and no,” explaining that he had been inoculated in his home country and was now immune to the disease, “people take juice of smallpox and cut the skin and put in a drop.”

Mather interviewed other African-born men and realized that those who had been inoculated were immune to the epidemic currently raging in Boston. Mather pursued a determined course of action, asking doctors to inoculate their patients and the town’s ministers to support the plan. Boston still suffered dreadfully, but thanks to information about a practice dating back untold generations, from people enslaved by white landowners, the terror linked to smallpox began to recede.


Stories of the success of inoculation in New England spread to England and in the 1790s physician Edward Jenner noticed that milkmaids in his community generally didn’t become sick with smallpox. He guessed it was because they were often exposed to cowpox, a related disease in cattle that only caused mild illness in humans.

In May of 1796, Jenner inoculated an eight-year-old boy with matter from a cowpox sore on the hand of a milkmaid named Sarah Nelmes. The boy suffered a small rash and felt ill for several days but made a full recovery. In July, Jenner inoculated the boy again, this time with matter taken from a fresh human smallpox sore, to test his immunity. The boy remained healthy.

Jenner published a pamphlet which outlined his success in protecting 23 patients from smallpox infection with material from a cowpox pustule. In fact, the word “vaccine” was coined by Jenner; derived from Variolae vaccinae (Latin for ‘smallpox of the cow’). Even though Jenner used the scratching method to introduce infectious material to his patients, ‘vaccination’ was adopted later as the term for the practice of inoculation by injection with a needle that we use today.


Messenger RNA

Fast forwarding to 1960, messenger RNA (mRNA) was discovered as the cell’s means to encode information needed to fight infections. In late 1987, Robert Malone, a graduate student at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, mixed strands of mRNA with droplets of human fat. The human cells absorbed the mRNA and began producing proteins. Realizing that this discovery might have far-reaching potential in medicine, Malone thought it might be possible to “treat RNA as a drug”.

Since 2010, mRNA vaccines have been studied for influenza, Zika, rabies, and other diseases in animals and humans. Recent technological advancements improved mRNA vaccines’ stability and effectiveness enough for scientists and drug manufacturers to recommend their use for the first time outside of the research lab in the fight against COVID-19.

Currently vaccines for COVID-19, are the only approved mRNA vaccines. They use mRNA that directs cells to produce copies of a “spike protein” on the outside of the coronavirus. Once replicated, the immune system detects the spike protein and creates an immune response to prevent the disease. If the immunized person is exposed to COVID-19, they are less likely to become seriously ill or die from the disease. Researchers are studying how mRNA might be used to develop vaccines for additional infectious diseases and continue the life-saving legacy of vaccination.


Vaccines to Keep You and Your Community Safe this Winter

Aside from the COVID-19 vaccines now available through the miracle of modern science, there are two other vaccinations we can get to help keep ourselves and our community safe. Flu vaccines protect against the four influenza viruses that research indicates to be most common. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot every season with rare exception. A study just this year showed that among adults, flu shots were associated with a 26% lower risk of ICU admission and a 31% lower risk of death from flu compared with the unvaccinated.

Pneumococcal disease is another serious illness that is caused by bacteria called pneumococcus. In adults the disease can cause pneumonia, blood infections, meningitis, and is sometimes deadly. Pneumovax is a vaccine that protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. The CDC recommends annual vaccination for all adults 65 years or older and for adults 19 years or older who smoke or have an immunocompromising condition.

If everyone who has been vaccinated for COVID-19 received flu shots and Pneumovax this year as well, countless hospitalizations and deaths could be avoided. Making vaccination a regular part of your health care can prevent future pandemics and save lives.



Volume 6 of Science and Civilisation in China by Joseph Needham

The Life and Death of Smallpox by Ian and Jenifer Glynn

“How an African slave helped Boston fight smallpox” from The Boston Globe:

Timeline of vaccination history

COVID-19 Vaccinations

NOTICE: Unity Care NW is feeling the impact of nationwide health care staffing shortages. Due to a lack of sufficient staffing, we will no longer be able to offer COVID-19 vaccines at our Bellingham health centers. However, COVID-19 vaccines will still be available at Unity Care NW’s North Whatcom Health Center in Ferndale.

If transportation is an issue, ask our schedulers about options for helping you get to your appointment.

Call 360-676-6177 for appointments, available Monday – Friday at our health center at 6060 Portal Way in Ferndale.

The COVID-19 vaccine is available free of charge. There is no out-of-pocket cost for COVID-19 vaccines. Currently, patients over age of 5 can receive a vaccine at Unity Care NW.

More information is available here.

The state’s vaccine locator can be used by anyone to find an available vaccination appointment locally.



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup now recommend everyone 16 and older receive COVID-19 booster doses at the recommended interval. This decision followed the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to expand emergency use authorization (EUA) for booster doses for 16- and 17- year-olds.

Refer to your vaccination card for the type and date of COVID-19 vaccine administration. You can also get personal vaccination records through the Washington State Immunization Information System (WAIIS) at


Why get vaccinated against COVID-19?

For most people, the best choice is to get the vaccine. Getting vaccinated will help keep you and your family healthy and safe. The vaccines are extraordinarily effective at protecting you from hospitalization and death from the virus. Vaccines will help bring this pandemic to an end. By getting vaccinated, you can help reverse the damage to the economy, prevent more illnesses and deaths in America, and eliminate and eradicate COVID-19.

Go to our COVID-19 News page to find the latest information from America’s medical experts or talk to your provider to make a decision that’s right for you.

Betty was the first patient to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Unity Care NW.

You can help our efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic!



National Issues, Local Support

The American Rescue Plan, the Affordable Care Act, and Your Local Community Health Center
Kate Wojnicki, ARNP, Unity Care NW

Everyone deserves to live their healthiest life, but health care continues to elude many Americans. For some, the decision to go to the doctor can still mean the difference between affording basics like food or rent. Copays and high deductibles can keep people from seeking care. Before the Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare) was signed in 2010, more than 60 million American’s were uninsured. Under the law, cost-sharing reductions helped lower the cost of health care coverage for low-income individuals and families.

While access has gotten better over the last decade, 26.9 million Americans still don’t have health insurance. Even those that have sought insurance under the ACA’s exchanges can find it difficult to choose whether to pay for insurance or go without coverage and hope for the best. In 2019, 74% of uninsured adults said that they were uninsured because the cost of coverage was too high. Recently, as part of Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, subsidies were expanded for health insurance purchased through the ACA marketplace making health benefits much more affordable. This is welcome news, as we know that people without insurance coverage have worse access to care. Three in ten uninsured adults in 2019 went without needed medical care due to cost. Studies repeatedly demonstrate that uninsured people are less likely than those with insurance to receive preventive care and services for major health conditions.

Unfortunately, though, there will still be many Americans who will continue be unable to access needed health benefits due to their own financial realities. While we wait to see how expansion of the ACA will impact the country’s uninsured residents, community health centers are doing all we can to increase the healthy years of life in the communities we serve. The nation’s community health center movement began during the War on Poverty and the facilities were central to advancing racial equity during the civil rights movement. For over 50 years, community health centers have provided whole person health care to underserved populations. In my work at Unity Care NW I’m proud to be a part of this legacy of expanding access to affordable primary medical, dental, behavioral health, and pharmacy services for friends and neighbors of all ages here in Whatcom County.

Unity Care NW is a non-profit health care provider that was started nearly 40 years ago by a coalition of community leaders, health professionals, volunteers, faith-based organizations, and concerned citizens. Wellness programs, mental health counseling, comprehensive dental care and an on-site pharmacy at Unity Care NW makes care for the whole person available in one convenient location. But barriers to care persist outside of our facilities that we must work to address as well.

In 2020, 15% of Unity Care NW patients were unhoused and 51% were living below the poverty line. We know our patients who are unhoused experience higher rates of many chronic illnesses. Through outreach efforts in partnership with social service organizations, Unity Care NW attempts to address the underlying health issues of economically disadvantaged patients. Recently, we announced that $4 Million would be allocated from the Washington State capital budget for a new facility called The Way Station. This unique project, in partnership with Whatcom County, Opportunity Council and PeaceHealth, will provide primary medical, behavioral health, showers and laundry, case management, respite beds and other wrap around services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness to support their journey to permanent housing and a healthier life.

And then there’s COVID. Over the last year I have been truly inspired by the efforts from my co-workers to keep our community safe. We had to move quickly to make changes and update policies. This began with figuring out screening procedures, developing curbside pick-up and delivery programs for our pharmacies, offering telehealth appointments, then respiratory clinics were set up so we could care for our patients who exhibited COVID symptoms without endangering others. We recruited multi-lingual Community Health Workers to help with contact tracing and later, vaccine outreach in communities that can often face complex barriers to health care access. These efforts paid off. 16 months on, we haven’t had a single transmission of the coronavirus in our health centers. When the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out began, we were eager to become a vaccination site and protect our patients and the community at large from the deadly virus.

We began vaccinating community members in January and at first, we struggled to keep up with demand for the COVID-19 vaccine from early adopters. Eventually, it became clear that there were barriers for many of our patients and that outreach was needed to make sure they were getting good information about the vaccines. We produced video messages to send to patients from their primary care providers and other staff to encourage them to get vaccinated. To date we’ve administered nearly 10,000 vaccine doses at our health centers. The thought that we were able to protect so many community members from the risk of hospitalization, long-term debilitating symptoms, and death from COVID gives me hope. While we work to vaccinate more of our community, we are up against a disheartening amount of misinformation. But we’ll keep listening to our patients, reaching out, and having the hard conversations until this is over. The work of a community health center isn’t done until everyone has the opportunity to live their healthiest life.

Need Affordable Health Coverage?

If you need or have lost health care coverage one of our health insurance navigators can help you find a plan that works for you. A special enrollment period is in effect until August 15th for anyone who needs health benefits. Call (360) 788-2669 or go online at to sign up for health insurance.

Data source: Kaiser Family Foundation

I’m a Family Nurse Practitioner and HIV Specialist at Unity Care NW.  I hold a Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington and a Master of Science in Nursing/ Nurse Practitioner degree from Seattle Pacific University.  I joined Unity Care NW in 2014 and earned my HIV credential through the American Academy of HIV Medicine in 2016.