Saturday Soapboxes: Celebrate National Health Center Week | opinion

Veronica C. met Billy back in February 2019. He was homeless and struggling with drugs, alcohol and the death of his mother.

“I said to him, ‘You know, whenever you get tired of what you’re doing, come to me. If you want to change your life and work on sobriety and possibly get housing, come see me, I’m Veronica.’”

Three years later, Billy is settled, healthy and in touch with his children again.

After two years of pandemic-related cancellations, we’re coming together for National Health Center Week on August 7 to celebrate stories like Billy’s and collaborators like Veronica, a case manager at Yakima Neighborhood Health Services (YNHS) known for her skill and patience is off the road with some of the toughest falls. In the world of harm reduction, we’ve learned that “no” means “no” from our customers today. Tomorrow is a new day.

National Health Center Week celebrations are taking place at community health centers across the country. Yakima’s three CHCs — YNHS, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, and Community Health of Central Washington — mark the occasion as the largest primary care safety net in the county. Together, we served 87,000 people last year — nearly a third of the county’s entire population.

It’s a long, honorable history – dating back to the 1970s – spearheaded by pioneering physicians including Dr. Don Gargas and Mike Maples and the late Paul Monahan and Doug Corpron. Don Hinman, a founding member of the YNHS board and past chair, has given thousands of hours to our mission, and our current chair, Nancy Kokenge, has been a board member for over 35 years. Any organization should be so happy for such volunteering and support.

While helping people caught up in the homeless is often our most recognized service at YNHS, it accounts for approximately 14% of our mission.

Our integrated professional teams provide comprehensive care for generations of families – health screening, immunization and developmental screening; Adult patients receive affordable care and support for chronic conditions.

Through integrated teams of professionals – behavioral medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, nutrition and public – patients can address multiple issues through this “one stop shop”.

In the past year alone, we have provided nearly 2,000 people with food, rent and utilities, and employment assistance. A great model – because not everything can be solved in the examination room.

At least 51% of CHC’s board members are users of our services. This allows us to understand and respond to the needs of the community.

All three CHCs report the quality measures annually to the agencies that support our programs. YNHS is also proud to be accredited by the Joint Commission and recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a patient-centric medical home.

Please join us to celebrate National Community Health Center Week – Wednesday (Aug. 10) in Yakima and Thursday (Aug. 11) in Sunnyside from 1-3 p.m.

Meet the YNHS teams at our “Festivals in the Parking Lots”, get your blood pressure taken, get health insurance and have a SnoCone!

It’s all free! See you there!

Rhonda Hauff, CEO of Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, has been with the organization since 1983. She is also President-elect of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

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