A look back at 2017 to get us dreaming bigger in 2018

Dec 29, 2017

In 2017, Central City Concern (CCC) made significant headway toward increasing the number of affordable homes in Portland, bridged service gaps with new programs, further cemented our reputation as leaders in the national conversation about how to end homelessness, and much more. But most importantly, thanks to you, CCC helped thousands of our neighbors find housing, wellness, and opportunity through our compassionate and comprehensive model of care.

Below are some highlights from the year at CCC. As you read through this snapshot of what we accomplished, we hope you will feel good about all the things you made possible.

July: Hill Park Apartments became home to 39 households in Southwest Portland.

August: Charlotte B. Rutherford Place, a 51-unit apartment building for families, broke ground.

September: Stark Street Apartments, which will provide 153 homes, broke ground.

November: The Blackburn Building—combining a clinic, pharmacy, transitional and permanent housing—broke ground.

February: Multnomah County, the City of Portland, and CCC launched the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program to help low-level drug offenders work toward recovery, find stability and avoid reoffending.

February: CCC, Multnomah County’s Department of Community Justice, the Joint Office of Homeless Services and Meyer Memorial Trust together launched Flip the Script, a culturally specific reentry program that aims to reduce recidivism.

March: CCC joined forces with Health Share of Oregon and CODA, Inc. to form Wheelhouse, a program to expand Medication Supported Recovery services throughout the Tri-county area.

May: CCC Clean Start trains formerly homeless workers to help keep neighborhoods clean by removing trash and graffiti. The program works with the City of Portland’s One Point of Contact.

May: Ed Blackburn, Portland Business Alliance Community Partner of the Year

July: Town Center Courtyards family housing community, Gold Nugget Merit Award

October: Ed Blackburn and Central City Concern, National Alliance to End Homelessness Pioneers in Innovation and Excellence Award

November: Housing is Health Collaboration, Portland Business Journal Innovations in Corporate Philanthropy Award

January: After a fire displaced 98 residents of CCC's Hotel Alder building, community members rallied to send a flood of donations to meet the needs of our tenants.

August: Close to 300 runners and walkers attended Portland's first Heroes in Recovery 6K. Proceeds of the race benefited CCC and Hooper Detox.

March: The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness highlighted CCC Recovery housing.

April: CCC hosted Kimberly Johnson, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, for a visit that included a Recovery Housing “fish bowl” dialogue.

June: CCC staff members and a health care consumer hosted six informative and well-received presentations at the National Health Care for the Homeless Council’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

January: Ed Blackburn, CCC's executive director since 2008, announced that he would retire later in 2017. A national search began in the spring for his successor.

August: Rachel Solotaroff, M.D., was announced as the new President & CEO for CCC. She had been with CCC since 2006, first as CCC’s Medical Director, then as Chief Medical Officer since 2014

September: Freda Ceaser was named CCC's director of Equity and Inclusion. She was previously the Director of Employment Services at CCC's Employment Access Center.

April: CCC highlighted our robust volunteer program and partnerships during National Volunteer Week.

August: CCC celebrated National Health Center Week by sharing the many ways we extend our health care work past clinic walls and directly to where people live.

The Imani Center program increased the number of people they serve with culturally responsive Afrocentric approaches to mental health and addictions treatment by 50 percent. They also held the first two graduations in the program's history.

CCC's social enterprises—Central City Coffee, the Central City Bed, On-call Staffing and CCC Clean Start—employed 80 formerly homeless clients over the year.

CCC's Recycling and Reuse Operations Center, a program that gives abandoned property a second life, processed more than 44,000 pounds of items (91% of which was kept out of the landfill) and provided nearly 700 clients with much-needed household items and clothing.

Introducing CCC's new President & CEO, Rachel Solotaroff, M.D.

Aug 14, 2017

Rachel Solotaroff, M.D. has been named new President & CEO for Central City Concern (CCC), a major provider of housing, health care and employment support to people experiencing homelessness in Portland, Oregon. The role will be effective at the end of September 2017.

Rachel has been working with CCC since 2006, first as CCC’s and Old Town Clinic’s Medical Director and as Chief Medical Officer since 2014. She has been a member of CCC’s Executive Leadership Team since November 2014. During her time at CCC, Rachel has overseen inpatient and outpatient alcohol and drug treatment, primary care and mental health care. She has developed key strategic initiatives and stakeholder partnerships to respond to community needs and has championed data-driven models of care for specific populations, from expansion of treatment for homeless people with opioid use disorder to an advanced medical home for medically complex homeless individuals.

In her leadership of Old Town Clinic, she secured national recognition from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's LEAP project as one of the 30 highest-performing clinics in the United States, as well as achieving recognition as an NCQA Tier 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home. In 2014, Rachel received the Karen Rotondo Outstanding Service Award from the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council.

In addition to her work at CCC, Rachel was Assistant Professor at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) from 2007 to 2014. She has also worked as a staff physician from 2004 to 2006 at the Portland VA Medical Center. Rachel earned her BA from Brown University and her medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School.

“There is no greater honor than serving as the leader of such an extraordinary organization as Central City Concern,” said Rachel. “I am humbled and excited to partner with our staff, clients, stakeholders and community members to advance our collective mission of ending homelessness in our community.”

Central City Concern’s board and staff worked with a recruiting company in an exhaustive, national talent search for its new leader; the search attracted more than 300 inquiries. “While we always knew that CCC had top talent, it was an illuminating experience to have this knowledge vetted and confirmed by a rigorous, national process,” said CCC Board of Director’s Chair, William Wiechmann. “The board is confident about Rachel’s ability to lead the agency in an evolving health care landscape, oversee the building of nearly 400 units of new housing and guide the expansion of the organization’s employment services.”

Ed Blackburn, Central City Concern’s leader since 2008, will move to an Emeritus President & CEO status. He will assist with leadership transition and will work to complete the organization’s $3.5 million capital campaign related to three housing projects. Ed’s 25 years of service to Central City Concern will be honored at the organization’s annual Compassion in Action luncheon on October 10 at the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower.

“I have had the wonderful opportunity to work closely with Rachel for 11-some years,” said Ed. “She has consistently demonstrated a remarkable devotion to our mission, a highly intelligent approach to organizational development, a special ability to communicate to a diversity of people and a truly impressive work ethic. I enthusiastically support the Board's decision in selecting Rachel as the new President & CEO of CCC.”

CCC was founded in 1979 and helps nearly 14,000 people yearly. It employs approximately 900 people and has an annual budget of more than $80 million. It is a Federally Qualified Health Center, providing primary, behavioral and substance use disorder care across 13 locations in the metro area. It also owns/manages more than 1,700 units of affordable housing with nearly 400 additional units in development. Its employment services help roughly 1,000 people gain jobs each year. Learn more at www.centralcityconcern.org.

Click here to read a recent Oregonian interview with Ed as he reflects on the history of homelessness and his 25 years of service to CCC.

From "Sneaker Network" to Future-ready

Oct 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.

• • •

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.

A Cheerleader to All: Saying Farewell to Pharmacist Sandy Anderson

Sep 21, 2015

To the thousands of patients who receive their medication and medication management assistance from the Old Town Clinic (OTC) Pharmacy, Sandy Anderson is so much more than their pharmacist. She is a cheerleader. She is a sounding board. She is a constant.

But as of Friday, September 18, 2015, both patients and Central City Concern will have to endure a mighty change. After six years of steadfast dedication to and compassion for Old Town Clinic patients, as well as decades of prior pharmacy work, Sandy, OTC Pharmacy’s original head pharmacist, has headed off into a well-deserved retirement.

Sandy started as a volunteer at OTC in the mid-2000's, before the clinic had a proper pharmacy. She and a former co-worker decided to volunteer as a way to spend time together while also doing something of service. They spent their volunteer hours pre-counting prescriptions to ease the burden on clinic providers, who, at the time, had to take time out of each patient visit to count and dispense medications.

Eventually, thanks in part to Sandy’s volunteer work, the clinic realized that they were dispensing more than 10,000 prescriptions annually. It became clear that Old Town Clinic and its patients would benefit greatly from an on-site pharmacy. By then, Sandy had found a place she truly enjoyed in the Old Town Clinic.

“It was really rewarding,” she says. “I loved all the people. I really bonded with the providers.”

Even after her friend and fellow volunteer moved on, Sandy continued volunteering, coming into the clinic early in the morning and heading to her day job at a retail pharmacy after completing a few hours of volunteer work. So when Sandy was asked to head Old Town Clinic’s new pharmacy, she jumped in.

The rest, as they say, is CCC history.

Sandy has steered the pharmacy effectively through rapid growth and increased efficiency in a relatively short time, never losing sight of the goal to serve our patients better. She oversaw the pharmacy’s transition into the appointment based model, intended to not only increase efficiency in pharmacy operation but also to improve how well patients, many of whom are on multiple prescriptions, stick to their medication schedules. Under Sandy’s direction, the size of the pharmacy, as well as its staff, grew to keep pace with the number of patients accessing primary and psychiatric care at Old Town Clinic. She was integral in securing a donation of the IntelliCab System, a technology that eliminates filing and retrieval errors that can be particularly dangerous for patients who are homeless and hard to reach.

In 2012, Sandy was named 2012 Pharmacist of the Year by the Oregon State Pharmacy Association.

Barbara Martin, CCC’s Director of Primary Care, sums up Sandy’s impact on the pharmacy.

“The quality of pharmacy services we are now able to offer is unsurpassed, and this is due to Sandy's vision and commitment.”

And while Sandy has brought the pharmacy to heights that were unimaginable back when she was simply pre-counting medications out of a small room (“not much bigger than a closet,” she remembers), she is perhaps best known for the way she treats each patient she sees.

According to colleagues and patients, Sandy’s kindness and genuine care have never wavered. Her near-constant motion behind the pharmacy counter belies the undivided attention and patience she affords every patient with whom she meets. Giving information about each medication and its potential side effects is only part of her consultations; Sandy asks and listens intently, building a deep trust with her patients.

“I just believe anybody can do anything that they really want to do, but they have to have a cheerleader: someone who’s there for them and believes in them and says, ‘Yes! You can do it!’” Sandy says of her patients. “It’s been so much fun watching patients get the confidence in themselves and to keep trying and to be successful. They’re great people. They have great stories and they have great things to share with me. That’s what I love about them all.”

Sandy plans to fill her time in retirement with activities she loves: quilting, hiking, biking, playing tennis, and reading. She also hopes to use the time to practice a skill that has fallen by the wayside over the years.

“Everyone knows I’m the worst cook ever,” Sandy laughs. “So my biggest goal is to start cooking again and experimenting with food and making some great dinner.”

She will also give some time to SIRUM, a nonprofit that helps match providers and patients with no medication coverage with supplies of unused medications.  Sandy was the one who originally connected Central City Concern with SIRUM in late-2014, increasing the pharmacy’s (and its patients’) access to difficult-to-afford medications. CCC's partnership with SIRUM was the first of its kind in the state of Oregon.

Sandy’s impact and legacy at Central City Concern is undeniable. 

According to Barbara, “Sandy Anderson is the reason why we have a Central City Concern pharmacy. The patients, staff, students, volunteers here will be forever grateful. We are poised to continue her great work with our current pharmacists and pharmacy techs, as well as students and volunteers. We will strive to make Sandy proud of the work we continue to do.”

 “I always want to instill hope in people,” Sandy says. “That’s why I just know that they have to have a cheerleader. And I think many of them have caught on to that hope in life. And I guess that’s what it’s all about.”

Thank you, Sandy, for everything you’ve done for Central City Concern and those we serve. You will be missed!