The Columbia Gorge Health Council (CGHC) has recently awarded ten local organizations with one-year to three-year grants in support of the Regional Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). “The CHIP identifies three shared health needs in the region,” says Ellen Larsen, RN, Chair of the Community Advisory Council and member of the Columbia Gorge Health Council Board. “By supporting local organizations in pursuit of these shared needs, our hope is a higher collective impact overall.” The awardees span a range of private, public and non-profit organizations in the Gorge – all with a focus on improving health in the region.

Sense of Community starts out the first of three CHIP focus areas. Individuals who live in socially connected communities—with a sense of security, belonging, and trust—have better psychological, physical, and behavioral health, and are more likely to thrive. YOUTHTHINK was awarded a three-year grant for Building Resiliency in the Columbia Gorge. This project will focus on educating organizations, parents and care providers in the importance of social-emotional learning through the lens of secure attachment.  Mejor Juntos- Health Promotion in Hood River and Wasco Counties is focused on building awareness of existing programs.  Many organizations in Hood River and Wasco Counties have programs that increase access to nutritious foods and physical activity opportunities, yet residents and providers in the area frequently are unaware either of the existence of programs, or are unclear on participation requirements.  Dr. Miriam McDonell shared that “providing opportunities for physical activity and access to affordable nutritious foods will not only improve the quality of life of residents of both counties, but will have a positive impact on regional rates of hypertension, diabetes, and other health conditions related to being overweight.”

The second CHIP focus area is Built/Physical Environment—or the physical space in which we live, learn, work, and play— and is key to a community’s well-being. Gorge Grown Food Network has been leading the Food Security Coalition – a network of over 35 organizations and agencies working to improve equitable access to nutritious food in the Columbia River Gorge.  Sarah Sullivan, Executive Director of Gorge Grown Food Network said that a portion of the three-year funding will “support a part-time Mobile Market Manager to facilitate pop-up farmers markets at various locations during the season. We anticipate the Mobile Market being able to sustain operations by 2020, by building a solid customer base and diversifying funding streams that enable low-income residents to access fresh, nutritious food.”  The Columbia Gorge Education Service District also received a two-year grant to bring the nationally recognized Playworks curriculum to 10 elementary schools in Hood River and Wasco Counties. “This grant will allow us to bring an on-site coordinator to teach, model, and empower a sustainable recess program to have safe, fun and healthy play at school every day. Having a safe, inclusive playground is essential for every kid to feel included, be active, and build valuable social and emotional skills,” says Dr. Pat Sublette, Superintendent for Columbia Gorge Education Service District.

Healthcare Access, the third CHIP focus area, includes ensuring healthcare providers have the necessary infrastructure supports. The City of Maupin was awarded funds to connect the local Deschutes Rim Health Clinic, the dental office, and Canyon Rim Senior Living to a high-speed fiber optic network. Maupin Mayor Lynn Ewing stated that “these funds will help our local providers to efficiently utilize electronic health records and provide expanded tele-health offerings to better serve the local community.” HAVEN was also funded with a three-year grant to expand the Safer Futures Project. The current program operating in collaboration with North Central Public Health District will expand to Columbia River Women’s Center to integrate intimate partner violence (IPV) screening and to improve effective contraceptive usage, social support, and access to care, safety, and well-being.

“The selection of these ten awardees was accomplished via a thorough review and scoring process,” said Commissioner Karen Joplin and Columbia Gorge Health Council Board Chair. “We received 28 applications to start and selected ten proposals for funding. Proposals that demonstrated a high degree of collaboration across sectors or counties, showed meaningful connection to the CHIP and included services for the Medicaid population in the region scored higher in the review process. We look forward to seeing the impact these ten awardees will have on improving health for all in the region.”

A full list of the ten awardees and their proposal summaries can be found at

In previous years, the Columbia Gorge Health Council has funded innovations in the healthcare clinics, the Bridges to Health care coordination program and the community-wide Health Information exchange system through Reliance eHealth Collaborative.

About the Columbia Gorge Health Council:

The Columbia Gorge Health Council consists of healthcare, county, and other community leaders in Hood River and Wasco Counties who work together to recommend and guide solutions and improvements to the region’s healthcare system. They work in partnership with PacificSource Community Solutions to guide the area’s Coordinated Care Organization as well as develop strategies and policies to address the needs of the poor and vulnerable in the region.

About PacificSource Community Solutions:

PacificSource Community Solutions serves Medicaid members through its Coordinated Care Organizations in Central Oregon and the Columbia Gorge. It is part of the PacificSource family of companies, which has a 77-year history and reputation for taking great care of people. PacificSource employs 700 people, and serves more than 300,000 members with individual, employer, Medicare, and Medicaid plans throughout the Northwest.