A collaboration of community organizations across western Klickitat County has received word they will be awarded a grant to launch a Community-Clinical Linkages Program.
The grant, $800,000 in total, will go towards funding several new job positions within different community organizations and, according to a press release, will serve community members by connecting them with vital services such as food, transportation, housing and healthcare — including mental health care and substance abuse treatment.
The money comes from SWACH — Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health — a Vancouver-based non-profit organization that works to bring together community partners and organizations to work on shared health goals throughout the region, which includes Clark, Klickitat and Skamania Counties.
According to Molly Haynes, deputy director of community impact for SWACH, the grant will provide an opportunity for organizations in the community that focus on healthcare to collaborate more closely with other community-minded groups to respond more effectively to health concerns.
“We see the need for the medical world to have better connections to organizations that address those other needs,” Haynes said.
Local beneficiaries include the Bingen/White Salmon Police Department, Comprehensive Healthcare, Klickitat County (Mt. Adams Transportation/Senior Services), Klickitat County Health Department, NorthShore Medical Group, Skyline Health, Washington Gorge Action Programs, the White Salmon Valley Education Foundation and the White Salmon Valley School District.
Paul Lindberg, collective impact specialist for the Columbia Gorge (a collaboration of the United Way of the Columbia Gorge and Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital), said representatives from the community partners joined forces last fall to apply for the grant and create the working group called Klickitat County Link Group, or K-LINK, to address the community’s health needs.
Lindberg said creating such a group will give partners a platform to administer the grant and to allow for more open communication about future health needs of the community.
The grant will fund the job positions for two years, Lindberg said. In the meantime, K-LINK is looking at different options to continue funding after the grant runs out.
“The goal is to keep the positions sustainable and funded,” Lindberg said.
Lindberg said the ongoing global pandemic of COVID-19 has the potential to change the way a community responds to its members needs. While the group was formed before the pandemic happened, Lindberg said it highlights the growing need of a rural community to have partners from various sectors in communication with each other and aligned on goals.
Earlier this month, the White Salmon Valley School Board voted to approve their part of the grant award from SWACH. The grant money will go towards funding a new family health advocate position within the school district, according to White Salmon Valley Superintendent Jerry Lewis. A person in this role would be given the responsibility to link students and families with healthcare resources and be an overall support in that area, Lewis said.
“It continues to support our health and wellness program,” Lewis said.
The grant award comes almost a year after the school district announced a partnership with local healthcare service provider Northshore Medical Group to provide behavioral therapy health services to district students, a program which began last fall and was also funded by SWACH.
While COVID-19 has slowed the program’s setup a bit, partners are working to get the program up and running by opening hiring and finalizing contracts, Lindberg said.
“It’s a lot of money going into the community ... For a community of our size, that’s fantastic,” Lindberg said.