The event is seeking input on health care from low-income and minority residents

by: PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY MARINA ROGERS - A community health forum, such as the one shown above that took place last week in Madras, will be held next Thursday in Prineville.

Next week, local residents will be given the opportunity to share their health care experiences and concerns during a community health meeting planned for Prineville.

The meeting will take place at First Baptist Church of Prineville and will be provided by Central Oregon Health Equity Task Force. It is sponsored by the Let's Talk Diversity Coalition. The Madras-based organization received a grant to fund the forums from PacificSource, the regional coordinated care organization that funnels Medicaid dollars through multiple providers. It is the third and final meeting planned for the Central Oregon area with two others already held in Deschutes and Jefferson counties.

"The goal is to improve health services by getting community feedback," said Alyssa Bruhn, AmeriCorps*VISTA with the Crook County Health Department. Coordinated Care Organizations (CCO) were created following the passage of Senate Bill 1580 n 2012. Lawmakers passed the legislation to help Oregon comply with the policies enacted by the Affordable Care Act.

In addition to funneling money to Medicaid providers, CCOs are designed to create primary care homes that offer a variety of physical and mental health specialties in a single location.

Bruhn said that anyone is welcome to attend the forum, but organizers are specifically targeting Oregon Health Plan clients and minority health services users and consumers.

“I think they want to make sure that they get those people to come in because they are sometimes harder to reach and it’s harder to get them to participate,” she said.

Consequently, the forum will be bilingual and includes childcare and food to help eliminate the barriers for attending the event.

The forum will be conducted at multiple tables throughout the venue with individual participants meeting with facilitators.

“It’s not like a set of questions,” explained Carly Rachocki, health promotion specialist and data analyst for the health department. “It is more just sort of people’s experiences and telling their stories. What they do is two-on-one facilitation. It’s one person asking about their story and experiences of care, and one person taking notes.”

Forum organizers are particularly interested in what people have to say about the access to local health care. Is it affordable, are there any literacy barriers, or is the system difficult to navigate?

Once the input is gathered it will be provided to PacificSource with the aim of improving the services that they provide to people in the Central Oregon area.

“It’s just an opportunity for people to have their voices heard,” Bruhn concluded.

The community health meeting will be held on Thursday, Feb. 20, from 5 to 8 p.m., at First Baptist Church of Prineville, 450 S.E. Fairview St. Please register by Friday, Feb. 14, at 541-325-5001 ext. 4234.

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