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Virginia Graziani

Redwood Times

Redwoods Rural Health Center gave special recognitions to two board members and a key healthcare provider at its annual membership meeting, held at RRHC on Monday evening, Nov. 25.

Two long-term board members, Nancy Shelby and Kathy Epling, and family nurse practitioner Maryanne Riley, who has worked at RRHC longer than any other current employee, were presented with commemorative plates from Fire & Light glassware.

Shelby, who is currently chairman of the RRHC board of directors, was one of the founding members of the board. As she tells the story, one evening back in the mid-1970s, when Shelby was homesteading in what she once called “a goat shed,” midwife Lorraine Carolan knocked on her door to recruit her to help start a new community health center.

Epling, who has served as board secretary for many years, became involved with RRHC a little later. She first came to the clinic as a patient when she was pregnant with her son Garth. Again, it was Lorraine Carolan who encouraged Epling to take an active role; Epling joined the Community Advisory Committee. She was further persuaded to become a board member in 1992 and has served ever since.

Riley was working at the Garberville hospital in 1980 when she experienced excruciating back pain. A women's health practitioner at RRHC diagnosed the problem correctly and Riley was soon on the mend.

”Everyone was so kind,” Riley recalled, that eventually she decided to take a cut in pay to work at RRHC.

Presentation of the award was delayed because Riley was still seeing one of her patients when the meeting began as scheduled at 5:30 p.m.

Executive director Tina Tvedt highlighted RRHC's challenges and accomplishments during the past year in a Power Point presentation.

The health center instituted several new programs in the past year.

The dental department went digital with computerized X-ray equipment that not only reduces the risk of radiation and chemical exposure, but allows dentist and patient to look at X-rays virtually instantly.

Thanks to a grant from the CalFresh program, state funds administered by the county of Humboldt, RRHC was able to hire a nutritional counselor, Gina Paine, to help patients develop customized healthy eating programs, as well as hold a free healthy cooking class, provide food baskets to needy patients, and do outreach to help qualified patients access the CalFresh benefits program.

RRHC sponsored Walk with a Doc to encourage community members to learn about the health benefits of walking while getting better acquainted with medical director Dr. Philip Scheel.

John Montfort, a licensed clinical social worker, joined the RRHC staff and began a school-based behavioral health program. Montfort counsels students at Redway Elementary School and South Fork High School.

The health center initiated a program called We've Got You Covered to assist patients in choosing a health care insurance plan under the new federal Affordable Care Act.

In 2013 RRHC also qualified as a Level 2 “Medical Home” as rated by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, which establishes standards for health care that emphasizes patients and providers working together and assists clinics to achieve their goals.

RRHC dental also qualified to help an indigent patient get the dental care she needed through the Tooth Fairy Fund for Grown-ups, which provides a limited amount of funds for adults without financial resources to receive dental care that will help make positive change in their lives.

RRHC's candidate, a homeless woman, was “the ideal patient,” said dental director Dr. Matthew Winkle. After a number of treatments, she acquired a sparkling smile and renewed self-confidence. “When we were done she said, ‘Now I can get a job,'” Dr. Winkle reported.

Additionally, Tvedt announced the results of a survey that was part of 2013's membership application. RRHC has received 135 responses so far.

According to the survey results, half the patients found dental services most difficult to access and 30 percent found behavioral health services most difficult, but found services overall to be easy, Tvedt said. 

The greatest barrier to service, according to more than two-thirds of the respondents, is cost and insurance, with distance and transportation also significant factors.

Over 40 percent of the respondents cited “caring staff” as the most-valued aspect of RRHC, while one-third cited affordability.

Asked which of a list of several problems seems to have increased the most in the Southern Humboldt community in 2013, a large majority of the respondents said homelessness has increased most, with lack of jobs and lack of housing coming in second and third.

RRHC is still accepting new members. Membership is free of charge to anyone who comes to the health center at 101 West Coast Road in Redway and completes a simple form, including the survey.

For more information, call RRHC at 923-2783, or see their website, www.rrhc.org.

REDWOOD TIMES PHOTO BY VIRGINIA GRAZIANI

Redwoods Rural Health Center presented three of its most dedicated and long-time supporters with commemorative Fire & Light plates at its annual membership meeting on Monday evening, Nov. 25. From left: family nurse practitioner Maryanne Riley, board secretary Kathy Epling, and board president Nancy Shelby.