Sentinel Grove Cottage | Health center aims to close funding gap
Caught in a seemingly perpetual race to the finish line, the Cottage Grove community health center project is slowly closing in on its financial goal.
Although approximately $4.5 million has already been committed to the project, rising costs have stalled progress and created its current funding shortfall of $1.2 million.
Community health centers primarily serve those with limited access to health care, although all are welcome to use them. As Federally Licensed Health Centers (FQHC), they are eligible for public health funding and often offer a sliding fee scale for patients.
When the Cottage Grove Clinic opens, it will be the seventh such site for Lane County.
The stated mission of Lane County Community Health Centers is to improve the health and well-being of the community through affordable holistic health care.
The Cottage Grove project aims to integrate these health services into the local Lane Community College (LCC) building on River Road.
Lane County opened its first Community Health Center in 2004 in Springfield at the Riverstone Clinic and has added several more sites to this list since, though they are all in the Eugene-Springfield metro area.
Cottage Grove will house the county’s first rural community health center.
Making the health center a reality was a broad collaboration between many groups, including LCC, Lane County, South Lane School District, Be Your Best, PeaceHealth and South Lane Mental Health. The Oregon Community Foundation and the YARG Foundation were also heavily involved in fundraising.
Cottage Grove Clinic is intended to expand service to residents of Oregon’s South Lane and North Douglas counties.
A long list of programs and services are planned for the center, including pediatrics, family planning, alternative medical services, integrated oral health care, behavioral health, pharmaceutical consultations, and maternal health programs and infant.
The clinic will provide local students with access to primary care and dental services and will employ over 22 people when fully staffed. It will also serve as a health and dental training site for students from the South Lane School District and LCC.
It is estimated to be able to provide access to primary care services to over 5,000 patients in the community and surrounding areas with four primary care practitioners at full capacity.
Career development opportunities for higher paying jobs and hard-to-recruit health career categories are counted among the center’s potential economic impact at the local level.
The need for a health center is also evident in the region.
The South Lane community ranks among the top two primary care service areas in Oregon, according to the Office of Rural Health. The area is also designated as a “health professional shortage area” for primary and dental care by the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Federal funds were recently committed to complete this project.
On March 9, Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio voted to provide $17,945,000 in community project funding he secured for communities in Oregon’s fourth congressional district.
The funding will help support local initiatives that invest in needs such as infrastructure, community health, education, homelessness prevention and wildfire resilience.
“These investments will have a profoundly positive impact on our district,” Rep. DeFazio said. “I’m proud to have secured funding that makes our communities stronger, safer and healthier. »
Of the 10 projects for which funding was secured, $1,500,000 was allocated to Lane County to establish the Cottage Grove Community Health Clinic.
At a Cottage Grove town council meeting on March 14, representatives from the clinic project provided an update on its progress and discussed its need for additional funding.
Jim Gilroy of Be Your Best presented information to the council, with contributions from Lane County Health and Human Services Director Eve Gray.
Margaret Hamilton, president of Lane Community College, Brian McCasline, assistant superintendent of the South Lane School District, and County Commissioner Heather Buch were also in attendance.
Gilroy attributed the gains made towards the clinic today to a decision by city council many years ago to implement a strategic plan.
The city council passed a resolution at its July 12, 2010 meeting supporting the designation of Cottage Grove as a rural site for a federal health clinic.
However, Gilroy said many of the same issues the town encountered on the projects are impacting the development of the South Lane Community Health Clinic.
“If COVID hadn’t been interrupted, we would have been open a year ago last January,” he said. “So think about the costs that have increased over that time.”
Current plans are to start the project in August and open the doors in mid-winter or early spring, but there’s still a $1.2 million gap. Gilroy said that when representatives told the board about the project about a year ago, they had the unfortunate problem of having too much money.
“Now it’s the opposite,” Gilroy said.
In light of this, Gilroy asked the city to contribute $100,000 to the project.
“But anything the city can contribute to support stakeholders in their efforts to provide the service to the community will be welcome,” he said.
Reactions from advisers were mixed.
Councilor Greg Ervin asked if abortion services would be available, which Gray confirmed they would not.
Ervin then said that spending taxpayers’ money should generate some sort of return.
“Let’s not just give it away,” he said.
Councilor Mike Fleck said he sees it as an investment in the health care needs of the community.
“Unfortunately, I know that Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates keep going down all the time so I can’t imagine this is going to be a profitable business,” he said.
Councilor Candace Solesbee shares Ervin’s concerns.
She added that she was concerned about the mental health services provided near Cottage Grove Secondary School, which is right next to the LCC.
“It’s a bit of a stressor for me that I would like to explore a bit more because we have kids there,” she said. “Working and living downtown, I’ve seen some of the effects of South Lane Mental Health downtown so I’m having a hard time getting some of their services moved next to our high school.”
On the other hand, Councilor Chalice Savage highlighted the potential for upward mobility that the educational aspect of the health center could offer.
“I thought of it as an investment in our children’s future,” she said. “Our children will be able to have an education there.”
Councilman Kenneth Roberts, however, echoed Solesbee’s concern about mental health services near the high school.
“There are parts of it that I like and parts that I’m a little worried about,” he said. “I think we still need to sit down and discuss this before we move forward with any funds.”
Councilor Jon Stinnett said the clinic was a way to invest in preventative care, thereby reducing emergency room visits.
Director Gray spoke about counselors’ concerns about behavioral health around the center.
“Currently, we don’t have needle exchange in our primary care clinics. Most of the behavioral health services that would be provided in the federally licensed health center would be what we call ‘integrated behavioral health,’” she explained. “So someone comes in for primary care services, the primary care physician has 15 minutes with that person and recognizes that there are a range of other services that that person needs. And that can also include behavioral health services, it can include poverty or homelessness services.
FQHCs do not refuse patients due to inability to pay.
“We know that behavioral health outcomes, mental health outcomes are associated with physical health outcomes. You can’t process one without the other,” Gray said. “So we integrate those models, and we have someone who can come and provide short-term therapy services to people while we connect them to longer-term therapy. This is therefore generally the model that we aim for within the FQHC.
Ervin said he wanted to be as responsible as possible with the city’s money and felt $100,000 was too much.
Fleck pointed out that the city was receiving more than $2.3 million in ARPA stimulus funds and considered the $100,000 a reasonable request.
For information, no council action was taken on Monday regarding the donation.
The city council will discuss funding priorities for its U.S. bailout at its March 28 meeting, where the community health center’s funding request can be considered.