Our Stories

These stories tell how we are working together to meet community needs and keep people healthy.

> Project Access NOW connects volunteer providers with uninsured patients
> Providence helps Latina community become healthier while having fun
> Life Track provides innovative services to save at-risk young lives
> Community rallies to launch new Virginia Garcia Health Center

Project Access NOW connects volunteer providers with uninsured patients

The day after Pippa Newell, M.D., a surgeon at Providence Portland Medical Center, pulled a bullet from Danilo Gonzales’ left shoulder, she leaned over his hospital bed and spoke to him in his native Spanish. Together they talked about the surgery’s success and marveled about the path that led them both to Providence.

Dr. Newell began her college studies in anthropology and sociology and eventually landed in Senegal on a Fulbright scholarship. It was there that Dr. Newell began to consider becoming a physician. Today she is a surgeon and medical director of the Providence Liver Cancer program.

Gonzales arrived in great pain recently at the emergency room at Providence Portland. Years before in his native Guatemala he was shot in the right arm and leg because he helped save a woman who was being assaulted. He later came to Oregon to work, and one of the bullets migrated toward his left shoulder, making it difficult for him to use his left arm.

After hearing his story and knowing he had few resources, Dr. Newell’s team helped connect him with Project Access NOW, a Portland organization that pairs those in need of specialty care with hospitals, physicians and surgeons willing to provide the care free of charge.

Project Access NOW coordinates a network of volunteer physicians and other health care providers throughout the Portland metro area, making it easier for them to donate medically necessary care to the low-income uninsured in the community. Providence has helped support Project Access NOW since the non-profit’s inception in 2007.

“I love Providence,” Dr. Newell says. “It is a great hospital and health system to work for because we are here to serve the poor and vulnerable – it is okay for us to care – and we are able to do that regardless of a person’s ability to pay.”

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Providence helps Latina community become healthier while having fun

Twice a week about 50 Latina women from the Hood River area gather in a room at the Mid Valley Community Resource Center. Within minutes they’re dancing, laughing, sweating, and getting their cardio groove on as they follow volunteer Zumba instructors Veronica Espe and Sarah Christensen.

Previously, many of these women had never exercised. Excerpts from recent comment cards demonstrate their enthusiasm:

  • “Zumba has helped me lose weight and has improved my blood sugar levels, plus I feel great being around this group.”
  • “Our whole family is trying to help my sister lose weight, and she’s lost 30 lbs!”
  • “My family has a history of heart disease and this helps me.”

The class is the brainchild of Espe, a Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital employee who coordinates the hospital’s Medication Assistance Program. She is troubled by the high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression among fellow Latina women in the community.

“I have a dream to help build a healthy community with easy access and a welcoming atmosphere,” said Espe. “I want to help transform participants from the inside out, promote healthy behaviors and empower them to be more confident women.”

Providence Hood River has provided financial support for the community resource center and paid for Zumba teacher training and certification. Providence also sponsors a group of Jesuit volunteers (including Sarah Christensen) who work with Providence and other partners to address a range of community health needs.

In the fun-filled classroom, Espe likes to share healthy lifestyle tips. She talks about reducing sugar, eating more fruits and vegetables and making nutritious food choices.

“Every class is like a dance party, and it’s great way to meet new people and have fun with friends while getting a great workout,” she said.

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Life Track provides innovative services to save at-risk young lives

The statistics in southern Oregon’s Jackson County are both startling and sobering. The suicide rate for young people ages 10 to 22, many of whom are low-income Latinos, is the second highest in the state. Only 67 percent of Jackson County youth graduate from high school, and the poverty level is high.

Youth using local emergency departments for mental health crises skyrocketed 149 percent between 2008 and 2012. Substance abuse and gang involvement have become the unfortunate norm.

In response to a proposal from two partnering agencies in Jackson County, Providence Health Plan in 2013 provided a grant to support a new program called Life Track. The program blends the work and skills of two non-profit organizations – OnTrack, Inc., and LIFE ART – to provide critically needed services that address mental health, substance abuse, gang involvement and suicide issues facing at-risk Latino and other young people.

“The Life Track collaboration allows us to draw on the best of both organizations to create a comprehensive, culturally sensitive, youth-driven program,” said Rita Sullivan, director of the OnTrack organization, which has provided substance abuse prevention and treatment in the community for 40 years. LIFE ART is a grassroots organization that works to connect with youth in the Latino community.

Together, the two organizations created Life Track, which focuses on: education on mental health, anti-bullying, gang involvement, suicide prevention, and substance abuse issues; provision of mental health and substance abuse services; and youth suicide prevention training for community health providers.

“Our most recent Community Needs Assessment shows there is a tremendous need for these types of services in the Medford area. “We’re very glad and honored to help support the Life Track program,” said Cindy Mayo, chief executive at Providence Medford Medical Center.

“Providence's investment in Life Track holds the potential to significantly affect the suicide rate, the substance use and overdose rates and the quality of life skills that high-risk adolescents have as they go out in to the world,” said Sullivan. “We are very grateful for the Providence gift and the flexibility it affords us."

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Community rallies to launch new Virginia Garcia Health Center

For many migrant farm worker families and other vulnerable populations, the term “Virginia Garcia” has become synonymous with hope, dignity and an achievable path toward better health. And now thanks to a wide network of community partners, a new Virginia Garcia clinic – called the Newberg Clinic – opens this spring in Yamhill County.

The clinic expects to serve about 2,400 patients during its first year of operation, providing a patient-centered medical home with primary care, behavioral health and dental services. It will help fill a much-needed gap in this beautiful, largely agricultural area of Oregon. Estimates are about 18,000 Yamhill County residents live in low-income households, and more than 30 percent are uninsured.

“Although the Affordable Care Act has dramatically improved access for many Oregonians, large portions of our migrant farm worker population still won’t be covered,” said Gil Mu�oz, CEO of Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, which is in its 35th year and now operates 12 clinics in Washington and Yamhill counties. “Opening the Newberg Clinic helps us continue to reach patients where they live and work and provide the best care for those who need it most.”

The Newberg Clinic is supported in part by an $850,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its dedicated team of grassroots partners includes Providence Newberg Medical Center, Yamhill County Health Department, George Fox University, Yamhill County Coordinated Care Organization and Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic.

“This is a giant step in the right direction to increase affordable access to health care in Newberg,” said Lori Van Zanten, chief executive of Providence Newberg Medical Center. “We look forward to growing our partnership with Virginia Garcia to benefit patients and strengthen the community.”

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