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Coos Health and Wellness to open a new location
New site opens Monday, Jan. 15

COOS BAY — On Jan. 15, Coos Health and Wellness is opening its new location at 281 Laclair St., in Coos Bay. Soon it will be neighbors with Western Oregon Advanced Health, Oregon Coast Community Action, rental and energy assistance, and the Foodbank.

“The truth of the matter is I was looking for a new building for us since 2002,” said Coos Health Director Ginger Swan. “For this particular project, it’s been in the works for four years.”

For the moment, Coos Health resides at the North Bend annex building which was built in the early 1900s. At nearly 90 years old, Swan found it difficult and in some cases impossible to combine programs well.

The new building and land cost just over $4 million, which Coos Health has already paid off.

“We set up a separate fund for the building several years ago,” Swan explained. “We budget for positions and programs that may or may not happen at that time, so as we had people retire and leave there is a period of time where that money isn’t being spent, so we’ve been funneling that into that separate fund for a number of years. There’s no general fund dollars in this.”

Swan’s goal was to complete the project without putting Coos Health into debt, which she succeeded in doing.

“I didn’t want to start a huge project and get indebted and spend years trying to get it paid off,” she said.

Initially, when Swan tried to find land to build the new location, she called WOAH Director Phil Greenhill. At the time, Greenhill was renting three different buildings to accommodate WOAH, spreading the service out. After her phone call, he got excited enough to look for land, too and he found it.

“He wanted to know if he got the land would we would buy the other half and have a campus,” Swan said. “The plan was to have all of these services together.”

By next week, that vision will be realized.

Swan took The World on a tour of the new building on Monday before Coos Health departments started moving in. The location, which is directly across the parking lot from WOAH on Laclair Street, has two entrances. The entrance nearest the parking lot is intended for children and families, or those seeking Women, Infants and Children (WIC) services, family planning or immunizations. The entrance on the other side of the building is for adult services and also near where people can pick up birth and death certificates.

“We don’t have signs made up yet,” Swan said. “We’re still trying to figure out what those will look like.”

The building itself is close to 23,000 square feet, housing mental health, public health, health prevention and health promotion with 96 employees.

“There is no wrong window or wrong phone,” Swan said. “Everyone is going to be cross-trained. This should make our front desk a lot more efficient.”

New and improved workspace

Some of the new aesthetics employees will find include a breastfeeding room upstairs, staff showers for when people take a work-out break, a conference room that doubles for meditation or yoga in the morning, and windows in nearly every office. To make that accommodation, there are two courtyards that will also allow people to get fresh air without leaving the building.

Another perk for employees is that Swan allows them to bring infants to work if they aren’t seeing any clients.

“I was really hoping to have a daycare here as well, but didn’t have space for it,” Swan said. “That’s still in the works though. I’m not giving up on that because it helps retain employees and is better for the family.”

Not only does the new building provide a healthy environment for its employees, but safety as well.

Various wings can be locked down for security.

“If we need to lock down a wing, we can,” Swan said. “Whether it’s an active shooter or a disgruntled person, that way no one is traumatized watching that. There is an exit in the wing too.”

Inside the interview rooms are cameras and panic buttons under every desk.

“If you’re a case manager that needs to see a client, you can also check out one of these rooms,” Swan said.

In the nurse’s station, medicine is locked up behind doors that require card swipes for entry.

The new building also has client bathrooms and showers where Coos Health supplies shampoo, soap and towels in case someone needs to clean up. This could include homeless clients or others who have difficulty with hygiene.

Though the walls were bare during the Monday tour, Swan plans on decorating with photos that employees have taken at local beaches and around the county to show off their talent.

“They will be in color and will have their names under them,” she said. “Also, somebody kept albums of old newspaper clippings on public and mental health since the 1920s.”

Swan, along with former Coos Health Director Francis Smith, went through the archives and chose which articles should be enlarged and framed.

“It feels good to finally have this project done,” Swan said. “It’s exciting.”

Forest land now under tribe control

COQUILLE — Several thousand acres of federal forest land have been put under management of the Coquille Indian Tribe and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians on Monday after President Donald Trump signed the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act.

“We have worked for more than 20 years to correct the unfair requirements placed on us in 1996,” said Tribal Chairwoman Brenda Meade. “We are enormously gratified that Congress and President Trump have taken this important step. “

The new act “decouples” the Coquille Tribal Forest from federal rules that limited the tribe’s forest management options. The Coquilles were the only U.S. tribe working under that handicap.

In addition to helping the Coquille Tribe, the bill restores 17,519 acres of federal land to the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, and 14,742 acres to the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians. It provides the two tribes a land base for the first time since their restoration as federally recognized tribes in the 1980s.

The legislation, H.R. 1306, was authored by Oregon Rep. Peter De Fazio.

After previously passing the House three times, the Senate passed the legislation for the first time this past December. Rep. DeFazio personally appealed to Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, to push for the bill’s passage in the Senate.

“For years, these tribes have been unable to govern themselves as the sovereign nations that they are,” said Congressman Peter DeFazio. “While there is still much work to be done to correct our nation’s injustices toward Native Americans, the passage of the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act is an encouraging move toward progress. This is a tremendous accomplishment for the Cow Creek Tribes, Coquille Tribes, and Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw.”

Congress granted the Coquille Tribe a similar but smaller land base in 1996 — about 5,400 acres. Its purpose was to help the tribe support education, health care and elder services. The 1996 legislation, however, bound the land to the standards and regulations governing nearby federal lands.

Despite this unique handicap, the Coquille Forest consistently has outperformed every other federal forest in the region, achieving both economic and environmental success. Trump’s signature on the Tribal Fairness Act positions the tribe for greater opportunities, freely managing a small portion of the lands its people controlled for thousands of years.

“We look forward to continuing our sustainable stewardship of the Coquille Tribal Forest, aided by the additional flexibility this legislation grants us,” Meade said. “Now that we now are on equal footing with other U.S. tribes, we’re excited to show what we can accomplish.”