Angie Lunde has lived through a variety of mental health challenges. Her mother’s struggle after her father’s death; her son’s depression and eventual suicide; and her own difficulty in dealing with these tragedies.
But there is hope, and it’s okay to seek help. That’s the story she shared with nearly 100 who attended the first-ever “Hearts for Health” fundraising event Feb. 4 at Wallowa Lake Lodge, sponsored by Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness.
The event raised $352,121 toward the construction of an integrated health services complex to be located across from Wallowa Memorial Hospital. It will combine all types of care from traditional medical, dental and mental health care to acupuncture, massage and environmental medicine.
Lunde, a board member of Winding Waters Health Clinic and former case manager for those with developmental disabilities, shared how doctors are often the first avenue of discovering there is something is wrong.
As an example, each year Winding Waters Clinic patients have a well-being survey, she said, and 164 individuals reported thoughts of suicide last year.
“I have an absolute passion that those 164 people have follow-up with mental health services,” Lunde said. “Thirteen years ago, our 19-year-old son took his life. I sometimes wonder if someone had asked him that question when he was younger ...”
The integrated health clinic will provide the “warm hand off” from one health care professional to another, providing whole person health support to address such issues.
Dan DeBoie, former county commissioner, also shared the story of his late wife, Mary, who was a gifted mental health counselor — and struggled with bi-polar disorder.
“In the last two years of her life, she was hospitalized three times,” DeBoie said. “She was the hardest working, most honorable person I’ve every known. Her kids ... were at the top of her chart, and her clients were the next on her chart — and they knew that.”
One in five adults experiences a mental health condition according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Lifetime prevalence of mental health issues is almost 50 percent.
“I think every single one of us in this room know a man, woman, child or ourselves who were changed forever by a physical, mental health or addiction diagnosis,” said Chantay Jeff, executive director of the center for wellness. “Every single heart sitting in this room has a story to tell. All the roads we’ve been down, all the trials, all the tribulations, all the successes, all the triumphs, all the tragedies.”
The journey toward an integrated health services center has been decades in the making. The mental health services that eventually became the nonprofit center for wellness began in Wallowa County in 1989. The retinue of services has developed to include 14 different mental health programs, supported by 70 employees,
Local medical and mental health professionals, child care professionals, those providing services for elderly –– all have been dreaming of combining services for years according to former center director Stephen Kliewer.
“We’re here because we have a dream of a program that will really change the face of Wallowa County in terms of health care,” Kliewer said.
In all that time, administrators have never asked for money from the community.
“We have a $4 million budget.” said Jett. “We exist almost entirely on the grants that we write. We have some really crazy-talented grant writers.”
Now, as they prepare for the $3.5 million center, fundraising that proves the commitment of the community has become necessary.
Much of the funding for the project will come from foundation donations.
“Foundations are very interested to see what your community does,” Mike Wilson, the nonprofit consultant assisting in the capital campaign. Wilson is a senior associate for Westby Associates, which also helped an Elgin clinic meet its goals.
“We know that a lot of the foundations ... are very attracted to participate in this campaign,” Wilson said.
In addition, the capital campaign steering committee will be asking the legislature for $2 million.
“The work that we’re doing right now is unparalleled,” said Jett. “People across the nation are wondering what is our secret sauce, and I keep saying, ‘it’s just what we do.’ We are a community like no other people I have ever seen. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and thanks that you are all here supporting our vision.”