“They now have health insurance; that doesn’t ensure they have healthcare"

“They now have health insurance; that doesn’t ensure they have healthcare"
Posted on 05/09/2016



FLORENCE, Ore. - Lifelong Florence resident Char Reavis loves life on the coast.


But she said that, until recently, life on the Oregon Coastcame with one big drawback.


"Didn't get all our needs met, really, you know, and you just sort of took the hand that you were dealt," said Reavis, who is part of a rural advisory council on healthcare.


That "bad hand" is healthcare access.


It's a problem aggravated by the loss of family wage jobs, Reavis said.


"You know, really lower down your hours and you have a difficult time making ends meet," she said. "It really affects a person's health because you're stressed out and you're trying to do what you can."


Public agencies and non-profits in Lane County are looking for answers.


They've joined forces on the community health needs assessment, a project by Lane County Public Health, Trillium Health Plan, PeaceHealth and United Way of Lane County.


On the plus side: under the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of county residents without health insurance has dropped from 23 percent, as it stood 4 years ago, down to just 6 percent.


"If they now have insurance, that doesn't guarantee they have access to healthcare," said Dr. Patrick Luedtke, chief medical officer for Lane County. "There might not be an appointment to be had. They might have to wait months. How do we change that - how do we make that better?"


The plan outlines five priorities:


  1. Boost health "equity" among all ethnic and population groups
  2. Slow the increase of obesity in Lane County
  3. Prevent and reduce tobacco use. "We still have roughly 20 percent of adults who smoke; that's too many," Luedtke said. For example, Oakridge, pop. 3,200, has more than double the rate of tobacco-related deaths per capita as the county as a whole.
  4. Present and reduce substance abuse and mental illness
  5. Improve access to healthcare


"We're seeing the direct care piece, where we're building more clinics and providing more care to people, we're trying to increase access," said Jason Davis with Lane County Health.


That equation includes community health centers, like the Delta Oaks clinic that opened last fall in north Eugene.


"A few years ago we only had two clinics," Luedtke said. "Now we have 6, and they see a good many rural health patients."


A separate federal Health and Human Service survey lists a lack of dental care for low-income residents across the county.


And a 2013 state health authority report points to Lane County's low immunization rates to control whooping cough and other diseases.


Officials said they're starting to move to a system that promotes healthier lifestyles; stresses education; and helps people deal with housing and employment barriers, recognizing that all these problems feed on each other and affect personal health.


For example, part of the Delta Oaks community health clinic is a teaching kitchen.


"What we have is a kitchen, a teaching kitchen where individuals come and learn how to make healthy recipes at home with the limited resources they have," Davis said.


And healthier people will need to make fewer trips to clinics and emergency rooms.


Grants and other funding sources will be needed to fully fund the program, but rural advisory council member Reavis is hopeful.


"I think the positive thing is that we're all working to implement that into rural areas and do more prevention, and have more things that are affordable for people," she said.

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