OWhN Focus Areas

On August 31st, 2015, the Oregon Washington health Network completed its five year strategic health plan.  This plan included 20 goals to be completed by 2020.  Individual goals were established by calendar year. These were integrated with the scope of work of the network’s three year outreach grant and other grant funding to be provided by the Health Resources Services Administration, other Federal and state agencies, and foundations. The current initiatives of the network are described below.

1. Rural Opioid Planning Response Grant

On October 1, 2018, OWhN received a one year rural opioid response planning grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Under the auspices of this grant, OWhN will complete a Strategic Plan to address opioid abuse within its four county service area, develop a health manpower plan for Eastern Oregon, and determine how best to more effectively use National Health Service Corps personnel.  Other activities of the grant include training and maintaining providers and planning a regional crisis center. Part of the grant will be used to train 16 or more certified substance abuse counselors to address regional manpower needs.  This grant will be administered jointly with the Umatilla County Human Services Department, with a regional planning group (Drug Abuse Response Team) serving as the project’s planning task force.

2. Chronic Disease Management

Improving chronic disease management is an ongoing priority of the network.  Elevated rates of cancer, heart disease, and stoke have been long standing health concerns in the service area of the network for decades. Based on its strategic plan, the network plans to carry out the following initiatives by 2020.

  • Heart Disease Community Education.  During 2017 and 2018, OWhN arranged and held eleven community education classes in local schools and in rural communities.  These sessions included instructing students and community residents on hands only CPR and the importance of good nutrition and exercise for maintaining a healthy heart. Over 400 students and residents of rural communities served by OWhN attended these sessions.

  • Heart Disease and Cancer Coaching Clinics.  During 2017 and 2018, OWhN arranged and held a total of six heart disease and cancer coaching clinics using consultants from Legacy and Providence health systems.  These clinics provided screening services and follow-up referrals to 50 patients, who in most cases did not have health insurance.

  • Cancer Intervention Services.  In March of 2016, Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center in collaboration with OWhN completed the first updated study of cancer in the four county service area of the network.  During 2012, Oregon had experienced the highest cancer death rates of eleven Western states.  Based on the results of the study, the four counties served by OWhN had even higher cancer deaths rates than did the State of Oregon for a number of diagnoses. These included prostate, kidney, stomach, and thyroid cancer.  Based on this information, the network developed a cancer intervention plan that calls for expanded cancer prevention, screening, and treatment.  Radon testing is also encouraged for Union County.  The network is currently in the process of seeking funding to address these needs.

3. Health Professions Recruitment

Access to care due to a lack of health professionals is the largest single barrier to quality health care being delivered in the four counties served by OWhN.  As a result, recruiting and retaining health professional in Northeast Oregon is considered to be one of the highest priorities of the network.  In order to address the continuing shortage of health professionals in the region, OWhN is currently in the process of carrying out the following initiatives.

  • OWhN is currently working with Providence Health System to establish a rural training track for Northeast Oregon.  This program would allow 2nd and 3rd year family practice physicians to complete their residency program within OWhN member facilities.

  • OWhN continues to assist its members in recruiting physicians to work in their facilities.  The manager of OWhN is a former physician recruiter and is available to provide assistance in the areas of dissemination of recruiting materials, arranging site visits, and developing recruitment documents such as position descriptions and practice profiles.  This assistance also includes the recruiting of nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA).

  • OWhN will be begin the development of a medical assisting program with Blue Mountain Community College on 10/1/19. in 2020 the first graduates will complete this certificate program.

4. Training of Network Members and Providers

  • Staff of OWhN is currently working with Blue Mountain Community College to initiate or expand health professions training opportunities in the network’s service area.  Potential training areas would include lab and radiology technologists, medical records professionals, and substance abuse counselors.

  • During November of 2017 and February of 2018, OWhN coordinated the training of 36 peer mentors or peer recovery mentors (PRC’s). These individuals were trained using the services of Day Star of Portland.  To date, most of these individuals have been retained as peer mentors by their employers, or hired by other providers.  Many of the peer mentors trained by OWhN are currently in training to become certified alcohol and drug abuse counselors (CADC’s)

  • Since OWhN was established, training of member organizations and their staffs has been a high priority.  During the past 18 months, the network has sponsored cultural sensitivity, team management, and homeless training to local providers and agencies.  Since 2015, OWhN has also provided training in the following subject areas:

-Evidence based practices

-Value based care

-Latino and Native American Cultural Sensitivity


During 2019, OWhN will provide community based training concerning opioid abuse and will participate in a planned opioid summit to be held in March of 2019.

5. Telehealth

On August 1st, OWhN completed its two year Cambia Grant.  The goal of the project was to establish telehealth services to the four hospitals served by OWhN to include Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center.  This project included the purchase of telehealth equipment for all sites, training of IT and medical staff, development of telehealth policies, and completion of a telehealth business plan.   OWhN is currently working with these providers to contract services through Praxis Health Systems, implement interagency agreements, train telehealth providers, and establish emergency psychiatric telehealth services within local hospitals.

6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.

Similar to a lack of primary health care services within the OWhN service area, behavioral health and substance abuse treatment service remain in short supply.  Although behavioral health and primary care integration are recognized goals of the network, the immediate need is to provide adequate staffing for existing programs and to develop new services so that a full continuum of behavioral health services can be accessed by patients.  In 2015, the network implemented a process to ensure all patients were screened for depression. Other mental health and substance abuse initiatives being carried out by OWhN are described below.

  • Support the implementation of Crisis Mental Health Service Teams.

During 2016, OWhN completed an assessment of crisis mental health services within the network’s service area.  This study found that numerous activities needed to be carried out to ensure adequate crisis mental health services were available on a 24 hour, 7 day per week basis.  These included training, establishing a regional crisis center, establishing, local crisis teams, and working to reduce emergency room usage in local hospital.  The network is currently working with its member county health departments and regional mental health providers to ensure effective crisis management and response within the OWhN service area.

  • Access to Substance Abuse Treatment

Oregon counties in the OWhN service area lack many of the needed components for comprehensive substance abuse treatment. These include adult and youth residential treatment, shelter homes, and recovery half way houses.  Staff of OWhN is currently working with the YTHC behavioral health program and county health departments to develop a plan for expanding substance abuse treatment across the region.

  • Training of Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (CADC’s)

OWhN is currently in the process of training 16 or more CADC’s to work in agencies across its service area.  Training of these individuals that involves completion of 150 hours of training and successfully completing a state certification exam will be completed by December of 2019.  OWhN is also committed to training numerous CADC 2’s and 3’s to provide supervisory support for programs in its service area.  A long term long of OWhN is to serve as a training site for psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers.