From "Sneaker Network" to Future-ready

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

On Thursday, October 22, dozens of past and present colleagues, friends, and family members came together to celebrate Jamie Meyers, Senior Director of IT and IS, who entered retirement after 26 years of service to Central City Concern! While Jamie has steered the agency during a time of incredible growth (and its growing IT needs), Jamie reflected that “my concern has always been relational.” 

Read on to learn more about Jamie’s contributions and the legacy she leaves behind at CCC.

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In 1989, only 15% of US households had access to computers and the internet had not yet been “invented” (though the US Department of Defense had been using a similar concept called the ARPANET since the 1960s). Today, according to Pew Research Center, 84% of US households own a computer and 73% have internet access.

At Central City Concern in 1989, the agency had nearly 200 staff members and the use of computers was scattered at best. Jamie Meyers was tapped as an independent contractor to help PAAC (Portland Acupuncture and Addictions Center, later called Portland Alternative Health Center and now called CCC Recovery Center) develop a way to track client engagement and outcomes. Her database was called AcuDetox and, over the years, it evolved into what Central City Concern’s clinical staff members know as CCCER, which is now integrated with CCC’s sophisticated Electronic Health Records system.

In the early 90s, current CCC Executive Director and then-Director of Hooper Detox Ed Blackburn asked Jamie to create a new database for Hooper. Staff members there had been using an unstable system, so Jamie developed a high-performing database programmed so well that it still exists today. The database has worked well enough that only now are current IT staff members developing a new application to replace it. Later, the JOBS program was developed and Jamie responded to yet another database need.

These databases were completed by Jamie who was working as a sole independent contractor with occasional help from external “support desk” type individuals.  Oregon College of Oriental Medicine was another client of hers as were a few smaller nonprofits and ballot measure campaigns. During much of the 1990s, computer usage gradually increased at CCC and programs functioned with their own databases. Integration was only found via the “sneaker network” – literally putting content on a floppy disc and running it to another building, or to another computer in the same building!

In 2004, former Executive Director Richard Harris realized that technology needs were an increasingly serious matter and required permanent staff. He asked Jamie to take on the job of building an internal IT Department. She accepted and soon hired Kelly Johnson and Alex Cha, both of whom still work at Central City Concern. One of their first big projects was to network CCC’s computers and programs and buildings together – an accomplishment that Jamie regards as her greatest one at CCC. Another pivotal accomplishment was the creation of a virtual data center in a co-location facility. This technical infrastructure set the stage for the implementation of Electronic Health Records at CCC. 

“Jamie really brought this agency into the computer era. It was a monumental effort and we are a higher functioning organization as a direct result,” says Ed Blackburn. Today, about 90% of CCC’s close to 800 employees have regular computer access, 26 buildings are “networked” and the IT department has grown to 14 full-time employees. 

“It’s time for someone else to take it to the next level,” Jamie said.

Though Jamie is “retiring” from CCC as a full-time employee, she plans to do some consulting work after a few weeks off. Future pursuits include working out more, rediscovering her guitar and having the time to figure out what else she might want to do in the future.