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The Challenges of Accessible Healthcare in Eastern Whatcom County

Mary Lynne Courtney
In May, the Healthcare Issues Team met with Aly Robinson, MPH, Community Health Specialist, Whatcom County Health & Community Services, to learn about the current healthcare challenges in the eastern part of Whatcom County.  

One difficulty Robinson noted is the lack of medical providers near many residential locales. Consequently, students may miss a day of school, and parents a day of work, for medical appointments.

Another issue is dental care: many families in eastern Whatcom County are covered by Medicaid, but few dentists accept Medicaid. The East Whatcom Regional Resource Center, managed by the Opportunity Center and located near Maple Falls, has attempted to address these problems. It has partnered with various healthcare organizations to provide a monthly dental clinic, a monthly harm reduction clinic, and an annual Wellness Fair.  

Robinson brought us up-to-date on other initiatives for this part of the county. In 2021, in collaboration with the Chuckanut Foundation, the community was awarded $200,000 through a state grant establishing Health Equity Zones. Then In 2022 the community received a planning grant for a School-Based Health Center. The Center tentatively is expected to open this August at Mt. Baker High School, where it will provide basic medical care to students. The hope is to eventually expand the available services. Looking ahead, she indicated that chief challenges will be in obtaining sustained funding, availability of providers and staff, expansion of school-based health services to other schools, and expansion of healthcare services to adults in the community.

The next Healthcare Issues Team meeting is on June 17th at 10 a.m. at Squalicum Creek Park. It will be  informal with no fixed agenda or speaker, just an opportunity to connect, celebrate our accomplishments, and talk about healthcare. We might even talk about other topics that interest us, while we soak up some sunshine.

—Mary Lynne Courtney