The Pacific Index

$12 mil grant to help fund Cornelius Wellness Center

Stephanie Haugen

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Pacific University will continue its partnership with the Cornelius Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center as the center prepares for the construction of a new wellness center, scheduled to break ground in August 2011.

The Virginia Garcia Foundation recently received a $12 million grant through the Health Resources and Service Administration. The HRSA is the “primary federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable.” The Affordable Care Act, a federal statute that expands the nation’s health care funds, made this money available to the HRSA.

The grant will cover 88 percent of the construction costs and the remaining 12 percent, approximately $1.7 million, will be raised through fundraising with individuals, corporations and foundations.

The Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation began its service in 1975 after a young girl died of an easily treatable wound because she didn’t have access to health care. Today, there are four primary care clinics, three dental offices and school centers in Washington and Yamhill counties. Virginia Garcia sites provide health care to those who are underinsured and underserved.

The clinics focus on preventative health care, primary care and chronic disease management, and provide vision care, dental care and pharmacy services as well. Patients needing more advanced care are referred to outside providers.

Pacific’s relationship with Virginia Garcia began nearly 20 years ago with the optometry department. Currently, not only do eye care professionals from Pacific work in the clinics, but students from the School of Pharmacy and the Dental Health Science program also work at Virginia Garcia as part of their clinical rotations.

Although Virginia Garcia clinics serve all patients who request care, they focus on providing services to those that experience difficulty in getting treatment due to economic restraints and language and cultural barriers. Employees of Virginia Garcia clinics are able to communicate with patients in more than 60 languages and provide low cost care.

The clinics are funded by patient fees, partnerships with the Oregon Health Plan, Medicare, private insurance companies, contracts with local hospitals such as Providence and Tuality, and through donations from individuals, corporations and foundations. In addition, the clinics also try to provide services that promote the prevention and treatment of mental health issues. According to the Executive Director of the Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation Christine Rontal, 70 percent of patients that visit community health centers nationwide for physical symptoms actually suffer from mental illness. Virginia Garcia designed its programs with the goal of providing both physical and mental health care.

One of the objectives of the center is to not only treat patients, but also to educate them on a healthy lifestyle. The new center will have an exercise space, a kitchen to be used for cooking classes, a green space and community garden and showers for those who commute to the clinic by bicycle.

“Being healthy involves getting outside and enjoying your environment by being active within it…We hope the green space will inspire our patients to live a healthier life,” said Rontal.

The new Cornelius Wellness Center will be located at the current site and is expected to be completed in July 2012. While the new center is constructed, patients can receive care in Forest Grove in a space temporarily donated by Tuality Health Care.

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$12 mil grant to help fund Cornelius Wellness Center