Crook County group discusses ways to improve health care

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: July 11. 2007 5:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE — The people around a table in the cafeteria at Crook County Middle School on Tuesday night sat thinking about how to describe what they like about health care in Crook County.

Tapping their pencils and furrowing their brows, they slowly filled up index cards with items such as the new building for the Crook County Health Department, the fact that Prineville has its own hospital and the availability of translators in the health department.

When it came to what they disliked about Crook County’s health care system, the ideas flowed more freely: the lack of services for uninsured and underinsured patients; high fees for health services as compared to Bend and Redmond; and low funding for mental health problems, and alcohol and drug addiction.

The group was participating in a forum put on by the Crook County Community Health Care Partnership, a program that is funded by the Oregon Office of Rural Health and housed at Prineville’s Pioneer Memorial Hospital.

The Office of Rural Health has supported Community Health Care Partnerships since 2001 in different Oregon cities, including Madras, in rural areas that have smaller and more crowded hospitals.

The purpose of Tuesday night’s meeting was to help the members of the Crook County partnership better understand the community’s health care needs, said Troy Soenen, director of field services with the Office of Rural Health.

“Our objective tonight is that each and every one of you will have the opportunity to participate and share your feelings,” Soenen told the group of about 40 people. Many of those at the meeting were involved with health care and social service agencies in Prineville, but members of the public also attended.

Soenen said that his office has $40,000 of federal money available for the Crook County program, some of which will go toward the issues people talked about on Tuesday.

After going over their likes and dislikes about health care in the county, the participants were asked to come up with methods for solving some of the problems.

“We’re looking for some solutions — we have some money that we want to put toward some solutions, but we want those solutions to be local,” Soenen said. “So I want you to really think about what can be done to make Crook County a healthier place to live.”

Lynda Kamerrer, Crook County’s prevention coordinator, said she thinks that reaching out even more to Crook County residents about their health needs would be helpful.

“This is some of us, but I’m not sure it’s a cross-sectional representation of the community,” Kamerrer said. “What I’m saying is, get consensus from the community on priorities. We’re taking one step (with this meeting), but not everyone’s here — we might need to go to them.”

Other suggestions included improving emergency services for outlying areas of the county like Paulina and Post, and setting up an in-patient treatment facility for adults coping with alcohol and drug addiction.

Mayra Salazar, a translator with the Crook County Health Department, said she thought the meeting Tuesday could have included more than creating lists of the problems and solutions.

“I thought we were going to do more,” she said, “like group discussion and that kind of thing.”

Ed and Marilyn Rosenbaum said they thought the meeting was a good start.

“I hope that something comes of it,” Marilyn Rosenbaum said. “I thought it was very informative.”

“You got to start someplace,” Ed Rosenbaum added. “If you wait around for someone else to do it, it won’t get done.

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