The front line of health care in North Douglas County
The town of Drain occupies its own unique piece of Oregon on the northern edge of Douglas County, miles from the interstate and even further from the nearest hospital.
In years past, residents would have to travel out of town to receive basic health care like a doctor’s consultation, flu vaccine, or well-child checkup. For many, especially those living in poverty and covered by the Oregon Health Plan, making an appointment and travel arrangements was a burden they chose to avoid. Instead of receiving preventative care, residents often waited until health concerns became emergencies before seeking help.
The Oregon Office of Rural Health labels Douglas County as a Medically Underserved Area because of a lack of preventative care resources. As many as 33 percent of children didn’t have access to a regular doctor, and the hospitals in Cottage Grove or Roseburg were the closest providers of acute medical care. As many as one in four children weren’t receiving regular medical care.
To combat this critical lack of access, Aviva Health, formerly known as Umpqua Community Health Center, opened its North County Family Medicine Clinic in the summer of 2019. Douglas County provided a no-cost long-term lease for the building and Umpqua Health Alliance provided $21,000 through Community Health Improvement Plan funds to help pay for $56,000 in renovations.
The clinic is an equalizer for the residents of North Douglas County, providing a path to better lives through better health.
“The population we serve in North County really struggles to gain access,” said Mark Tsuchiya, the Marketing and Development Director of Aviva Health, which operates seven health centers in Douglas County. “Some haven’t seen a doctor in years and are facing serious chronic health issues. We know, had they had access, they wouldn’t be as bad off as they are now.”
The clinic has been well-received by the community, Tsuchiya said, and the appointment and walk-in schedule is full during business hours 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Friday. Staff commute into town to provide services, and Aviva Health is already considering how it might expand its offerings.
“We’re prepared to add services and hours to make sure the needs here are met,” Tsuchiya said. “We’re already seeing numbers we weren’t expecting to hit in the first year.”
The clinic has also been involved with outreach in Elkton, Drain and Yoncalla to make sure residents are aware of the services. This includes getting plugged into the school district and through a variety of public forums.
The goal is to address the holistic health needs of the rural communities to increase the quality of life for its residents.
“Health care doesn’t start when you walk in to see the doctor,” said Aviva Health Project Manager Kim Gandy, emphasizing the need for everything from affordable food to clothing and hygiene. “If we’re meeting those needs and providing regular contact with a doctor, it helps catching things before they become chronic.”