On Friday, Jan. 13, Governor Brown announced the federal
government extended Oregon’s Medicaid Demonstration Waiver for another five years, effective immediately to run through June 2022.
“This is great news for Central City Concern,” said Executive Director Ed Blackburn. “As a health care provider serving people with very low incomes or
experiencing homelessness, we have many patients who are highly dependent on Medicaid to access medical, mental health, and substance use disorder
In 2013, the year before Medicaid expansion in Oregon, 47 percent of CCC’s patients were uninsured; two years later in 2015, only 11 percent of CCC’s patients
lacked health insurance coverage. This expansion of Medicaid coverage improved CCC patients' access to needed care as well as enabling CCC to offer
a more intensive care model that responds appropriately to the needs of these high-risk populations. Without Medicaid expansion, CCC could lose the
capacity to serve as many as 2,000 homeless and very low-income patients.
“We treat every patient as an individual,” said Blackburn, “and many of those individuals rely on the Oregon Health Plan to access desperately needed services.
Lisa G. is just one example of the many people who need this support and benefited from Oregon’s Medicaid expansion here at CCC.”
Lisa G. was terrified of losing her health insurance. Before Medicaid expansion, the Oregon Health Plan denied her coverage three times. “It’s something
I think about all the time. Without the Oregon Health Plan,” Lisa said, “I just don’t know where I’d be.”
Lisa, 23, used drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine for five years. She also struggled with bipolar disorder, which further complicated her ability
to stop using drugs. She tried quitting with no luck, until eight months ago when she accessed recovery support services through CCC. In Lisa’s case,
medication assisted treatment helped her tackle her opioid addiction, so she could then focus on her severe bipolar disorder and other medical issues
at CCC’s Old Town Clinic.
Lisa now lives in supportive alcohol and drug-free recovery housing and works in CCC’s On-Call Staffing program. She hopes one day to become a peer mentor
and help others to overcome their opioid addiction. Without Medicaid expansion, Lisa wouldn’t have had access to critical recovery services that led
to integrated health care, housing and employment services.
“Medicaid not only supports these individuals in their health and well-being,” said Blackburn, “but also leverages other resources such as housing and
employment, further enhancing the health and well-being of our entire community. Though there are uncertainties about health care on the national scene,
we’re tremendously relieved Oregon’s Medicaid Waiver will continue for five more years.”
CCC is a large non-profit organization, founded in 1979 in Portland, OR, that serves people experiencing or vulnerable to homelessness by providing health
care and recovery services, housing, and employment services. In the last year, CCC helped more than 13,000 people, most through our 11 Federally Qualified
Health Center (FQHC) sites that offer integrated behavioral health and primary care. For more information, visit centralcityconcern.org.
Old Town Clinic’s Wellness Program offers a variety of classes and activities
to further patient care, healing, and connectedness within the Central City Concern community. This month we wanted to emphasize the outstanding work
of Jeff Beers, an art therapy volunteer who Program Manager Moira Ryan refers to as “a co-conspirator toward the Wellness Program’s aim of encouraging
self-acceptance while building community.”
In fact, when approached about Jeff’s wonderful service being the spotlight for December, Moira jumped at the opportunity to provide a glance into her
work and experience with Jeff:
San Francisco-based artist Jeff Beers has years of experience working with diverse populations as an arts educator. Jeff joined us in July and has been a fantastic peer volunteer and co-facilitator of several Wellness groups. In our Art for Everybody and Art Journaling groups, he’s brought a more tactile experience of art-making as we practice trying out working with oils, inks, powder tempera, collage, collagraphy, and even found items! He draws upon his experience as a self-taught artist and encourages mistake-making, regularly reminding folks that we have permission to practice not being perfect here. Additionally, drawing from his experience as a certified instructor of Thai Massage, he’s developed curricula for a group we’re calling Eastern Techniques for Health and Longevity. In that group, we draw on trauma-informed somatic experiencing precepts as we explore tapping, brushing, acupressure, stretching, and other acts of gentle self-love.
With Moira’s enlightening recap of Jeff’s involvement, read below to hear his own words about how he utilizes personal experience with a desire to help
others through one of his greatest passions—art!
• • •
Name and Volunteer Position: My
name is Jeff Beers and my volunteer positions are for Art for Everybody on Mondays, and then on Wednesdays we do table-top Games and then I lead a
group in Eastern Techniques for Health. On Thursdays I do ceramics and the art journaling as well.
So a pretty wide array of activities. What’s your background? My background is in art for the most part; that’s what I do. Every year I choose an organization I want to volunteer for. Money comes very low on my
priorities so I feel like it’s a way I can give back since I can’t give back monetarily. So I just find places that I really believe in and then volunteer.
I get to pay it back and do what I love.
How have you been able to use those skill sets to connect specifically with those that CCC serves? Well, I really like the clients. I have a lot of admiration for them because I know that they’re struggling with one thing or another and I just admire
their efforts to reach out for help and be there. A lot of the groups, they vary in sizes, but it’s just cool to see the people regularly and to be
a part of their lives. And just to contribute whatever I can, which would be a positive attitude, and some skill sets, but mostly just showing these
people my admiration for what they’re doing.
I want to make it worth their time too. I always feel conscious that if people make the effort to be in the class or in the group it should be worth
their while. I keep that in mind and try to get a lot of feedback from the people and just tune-in to what they’re interested in; that’s been a lot
Have you had any cool projects that have been more successful or well-received that stick out? Yeah! In Art for Everybody on Mondays I’ve been having a lot of fun introducing different techniques to the clients and they’re usually always interested
in at least trying it out which is great. They find their voice and the right materials they want to work with. Then all of a sudden they become artists.
Before they were always saying, “I’m not an artist, I’m not an artist,” and that’s hard for me to hear, so I like to bring them forward and show them
what they can find in themselves.
And then the Eastern Techniques Class, that’s been a blast. Although it takes more preparation for me to package and present all of these techniques I’ve
learned through the years, it’s been a lot of fun. I ask the clients for a lot of feedback and they’re usually pretty forthright about just coming
up with critiques so it’s been fun to constantly let that group grow in that way.
Do you feel like the activities are a good fit for CCC and the Wellness Program? Oh, very much so. Your guys’ program is just fantastic. When I was a client I just was blown away by all of the services that were provided under one
roof so people didn’t have to go to different parts of the city to receive different services. I thought that was great. Of all of the private insurances
I’ve had in the past this was easily, no contest, the most fantastic clinic I’ve ever seen. And so, it was an easy choice to volunteer.
I mean you even have volunteers who work at Old Town Clinic cleaning up things, setting up different things, I think it’s great. I think your program should
be like a model for most of the clinics in the United States. It’s a great example of what you can do.
And lastly Jeff: if somebody were on the fence about volunteering with Central City Concern or about getting involved, would you have any advice or words of wisdom for them? For me, I’ve always had a respect for people no matter what their situation is and I want them to know that. I think it’s a good thing for volunteers
to show their genuine respect or admiration and not feel that it’s something out of obligatory need. I’m blown away by some of the people CCC serves
and what their stories are that they share. So I think for volunteers in general that would be the most important thing.
And I think that anybody that would find interest or have the time to volunteer at CCC should never have to have any doubt about the value of what they’re
Cooking Matters, a partnership between Central City Concern and the Oregon Food Bank, teaches clients the skills and knowledge required for healthy cooking and eating habits. Click on a photo to begin the slideshow.
• • •
On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in November, the kitchen of Central City Concern’s (CCC) Living Room community space filled with sounds most could recognize
as busy food preparation. The rhythmic rocking and knocking of a knife, the hollow echo of water falling on aluminum, the unmistakable crinkling of
plastic packaging being opened and emptied, and even the overriding din of playful banter—all there.
that noise? Eight people, all participants and soon-to-be graduates of the six-week Cooking Matters program, a partnership between CCC and the Oregon Food Bank. This was their final session as a group, so they were reveling in the chance to put what they’d learned in
the weeks prior to good use. And based on that kitchen banter, they were having a blast doing it—together.
Since their first session, participants had gained a soup-to-nuts education on the skills and knowledge required for healthy cooking and eating habits,
including following recipes and meal planning, shopping healthily on a budget and maximizing resources, understanding food labels, and even knife skills
and food safety. At the end of each class, they received a grocery bag of food with which they could replicate the course they made that day.
According to CCC Health Educator Kerith Hartmann and Population Health Coordinator Linda Nguyen, the Cooking Matters curriculum can help address a number
of issues common among Old Town Clinic (OTC) patients: food insecurity,
weight gain, hypertension, coronary issues, and diabetes or pre-diabetes.
In fact, OTC primary care providers had been clamoring for a nutritional guidance program for patients for years and Kerith had often recommended Cooking
Matters classes hosted by Oregon Food Bank elsewhere in the community. But the idea to bring the class to patients instead of referring patients out
became more and more appealing, and soon enough the need was undeniable. “You wouldn’t necessarily think that there would be a cooking class based
out of a medical clinic, but it makes so much sense, especially for the people we’re working with,” says Kerith.
With Oregon Food Bank on board to pilot a Cooking Matters class at CCC starting in late spring 2016, it was off to the races to find participants.
Approximately half of the Cooking Matters participants were identified and referred by their OTC primary care providers based on their medical histories
and the level of engagement with their care. Because Cooking Matters builds on each week of curriculum, patients who showed an active engagement in
their own care would benefit most.
Other participants were recruited through CCC’s Housed+Healthy initiative, which coordinates services between CCC supportive housing services and CCC’s health care programs. The work Housed+Healthy staff members do within the walls of CCC housing
allows them to show clients that Cooking Matters is well worth attending, even if that means showing up at their doors prior to a session and walking
with them to the Living Room.
“People living in our housing are inherently good candidates to benefit from Cooking Matters,” says Permanent Housing Manager, Dana Schultz. “They’re living
in low-income housing, so they have budget restrictions and limited cooking resources. On average, people living in our housing are about 59 years
old, which is when you see a prevalence of chronic conditions that can be managed through diet.”
Dana adds, “Plus, people who live in low-income housing have to be proactive about combating social isolation daily.”
Knowing that, the sounds heard in the Living Room kitchen take on a slightly different meaning. Those aren’t just the clatterings of making a meal. It’s
the sound of people—all some combination of vulnerable, unwell, or isolated—coming together as the ingredients of community. Over the course
of six weeks, they’ve encountered unfamiliar ingredients, learned new skills, grown in confidence, and broken bread—literally—together.
They’re not shy about talking of this community aspect, either.
Tom, a Cooking Matters participant, says, “My favorite thing was being around these people and being able to cook something with different people around
and eating together.”
Another participant, Stykhead, says, “The camaraderie here is great. Getting together and thinking of how we can cook better for ourselves. It gives a
whole new outlook on how to cook.”
For Josh, Cooking Matters helped her extend community to her home. “I was able to share the food I made with my housemates.”
Though Cooking Matters at CCC has only completed two cohorts, stories of the program’s impact can start filling up a small cookbook. One patient lost enough
weight to get a surgery she needed. Another participant loved learning how to make burritos so much that he not only stacked his freezer with them,
but also gave them out to friends. Yet another made a lasagna for her neighbors. A few participants who lived in the same building developed a friendship
during the program and held potlucks after they graduated.
Kristina, a participant in this latest cohort, says, “I can actually do a prepared meal on a regular basis. Before this preparing meals felt so tedious
and hard to do. But now I have a plan in my head and it happens.” She pauses and lifts her chin up proudly. “And my son likes it.”
“I learned a lot as far as being able to buy healthy,” Stykhead shares. “It’s nowhere near as hard as I thought it was.”
Based on the popularity of Cooking Matters, Oregon Food Bank has committed to bringing the program to CCC for three more sessions through 2017. Their partnership,
which includes providing additional volunteers, the curriculum, and all of the food used during each class, has been extraordinary, says Kerith.
Cooking Matters into CCC helps send clients and patients on a trajectory to a better quality of life, Linda says. Participants have secured housing;
with Cooking Matters, they are working their way toward securing health and moving toward overall wellness.
“It’s a joy to watch people’s faces light up when they try a new vegetable they love or even hate. At the end of the day, they get to enjoy a meal with
people they like. And having that group of people to do this with compels them to believe that they can make all these skills a part of their daily