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Point in Time Count shows strength of homeless community

COOS COUNTY — Throughout the week, volunteers from across Coos County have participated in the Point in Time Count, some of which worked as a small specialized team to conduct the brush count.

Brush counters trudge through brush and forest in order to find homeless encampments off the beaten path in order to provide those living on the outskirts of civilization with supplies and include them in the Point in Time Count.

Ed Glazar, The World 

Dorene Dalton, a homeless volunteer, writes her phone number down on Joni Fuller's palm Wednesday at Rooke-Higgins County Park, one of many places volunteers looked to document homeless people during the annual Point-in-Time count in Coos Bay.

The PIT Count is reported back to U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development and the results can determine the sort of services and resources that groups in the county can get funding for based on its homeless population.

What some may not know about these brush teams is that they are often made up of people who are homeless themselves, or were formerly homeless.

The brush team has the most success in finding folks for the count at night, because that’s when people are in their camps. During the day folks are often away from encampments working whatever jobs they might have or gathering resources.

One of Wednesday’s brush team volunteers was Doreen Dalton. Dalton and her husband are homeless themselves, and are known in the homeless community as Mom and Dad.

“When we see a new homeless person we let them know where the Devereux Center is, where they can take a shower, let them know they can go eat at the mission, and really let them know where all the resources are,” Dalton said.

Ed Glazar, The World 

Dorene Dalton, a homeless volunteer, carries a blanket and paperwork Wednesday toward the Isthmus Slough Bridge during the annual Point-in-Time count in Coos Bay.

Joel Fuller and his wife, Joni Fuller, are currently living out of their truck and were approached by the brush count group. Fuller became homeless almost a year ago after an injury caused him to lose his job and subsequently his housing. When he was housed, Fuller kept a number of rabbits as pets and still has a few that travel with him.

“We moved into our truck and have been struggling with the other people on the streets ever since,” Fuller said. “We utilize all the resources, but sometimes it’s still not enough to get you over that next hump."

The homeless community is very much like a family. Many folks are aware of their homeless neighbors and work together to survive. That sense of community is a major benefit when conducting a brush count, because those in the community know where camps are located and often have developed a certain level of trust with the various inhabitants of the encampments.  

Ed Glazar, The World 

Volunteer Jay Brown takes information Wednesday from Joel Fuller near the vehicle he lives out of during the Point-In-Time homeless at Rooke-Higgins County Park in Coos Bay.

“The homeless community, by nature of what they’re going through, is a shared experience,” Devereux Center Director Tara Johnson said. “They understand how hard it is on the streets, they know how hard it can be to find a place to sleep. There’s comfort in knowing that there’s somebody that’s already walking down the road to teach you the ropes. They’re quick to jump in and volunteer.”

Outside of the Point in Time Count, it is very common for members of the homeless community to give and share what they can at resource centers.

“Much of our operation is already provided by people who are experiencing homelessness,” Johnson said. “If a person is newly homeless I can take them around and introduce them to some folks at the center, and they come around that person and support that person. They share resources with that person.”

Ed Glazar, The World 

Volunteers Dorene Dalton, right, and Jay Brown walk along a trail Wednesday at Rooke-Higgins County Park as they look to document the homeless population during the annual Point-in-Time count in Coos Bay.

According to Johnson, a number of homeless folks who were not technically volunteers in the Point in Time Count, that still participated by getting the word out to their community. Johnson said there is an information network among the homeless community that can travel from the Devereux Center to Bunker Hill in almost no time.

“The day of the count here was a sunny, nice day. We knew there was a chance that there weren’t going to be a huge amount of people here, and I said ‘hey guys help spread the word,’ and people just started coming. There is a grapevine, and the word can spread through this homeless grapevine very quickly,” Johnson said.

Coos County Commissioners lend their support in proposed marijuana tax bill

COOS COUNTY — Coos County Commissioners approved writing a letter of support Thursday toward a house bill that would allow certain Oregon counties to set its own tax on recreational and medical marijuana growers.

The Law Enforcement Stability Act, HB 2382, states that qualifying counties will be able to tax marijuana production sites at a maximum of a $1 per square foot for its recreational farms. It will also allow counties to tax up $50 per plant for residents growing medical marijuana.

Josephine County Commissioner Dan DeYoung, who spoke with the board at its work session meeting, said the tax would be charged once a year when growers register their sites with the state and would act essentially as an added business license fee.

According to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, as of Jan. 18, there are 22 licensed marijuana producers in Coos County. The goal of the proposed bill would be to provide law enforcement agencies with adequate, sustainable funding to crack down on illegal marijuana production sites, DeYoung said.

“Josephine and Jackson counties actually create and grow 40 percent of the marijuana that goes into the dispensary system statewide,” DeYoung said. “We have huge grows. About 80 percent of what we grow in both Josephine and Jackson counties goes directly to the black market.”

According to DeYoung, the bill would apply pressure to residents who are not currently registered and potentially operating an illegal grow site to register with the state.

The bill also outlines that the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), both of which oversee marijuana operations throughout the state, provide qualifying counties with information related to people who are registered or licensed.  

For example, it mentions sharing information regarding licensee’s mailing address, location of grow site, identification as well data on maximum allowable grow size and marijuana plant count.

A recent Oregon Secretary of State audit found shortfalls in marijuana inspections from both OLCC and OHA agencies. According to the audit, only 32 percent of growers and three percent of retailers had undergone a compliance inspection with OLCC.

“The agency (OHA) has only four permanent staff to inspect roughly 14,000 grow sites and has struggled with decreasing revenue, turnover and performance management,” the audit said.

In their official response, both agencies generally agreed with the audit’s finding and are working to improve operations. According to DeYoung, ultimately the goal of the bill would be to support law enforcement agencies in eliminating the marijuana black market.

During the 2018 November general election, the county presented voters with an advisory question asking their opinion on whether or not Coos County should be able to tax commercial growing of recreational and medical marijuana. The final results showed 20,103 “yes” votes, or 71.03 percent and 8,200 “no” votes, or 28.97 percent.

At the last quarter, which ended in November, the county received a total of $92,810.47 in revenue from state marijuana taxes. According to DeYoung, if the new tax were to pass, Coos County would be looking at estimated collection of over $600,000. 

The proposed bill underwent its first reading Jan. 14 and was sponsored by Oregon Rep. David Brock Smith (R-Port Orford), Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) and Sen. Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg.)

Ed Glazar, The World 

Cannabis on a scale at Coastal Highways in North Bend. A bill approved by Coos County Commissioners is moving toward the house that would allow certain Oregon counties to set its own tax on recreational and medical marijuana growers.

OHSU's rural health program brings students to Coos County
Eight students on rotation collaborate on understanding barriers to care for local homeless

COOS COUNTY — At this moment, eight Oregon Health and Science students are on clinical rotation in Coos County.

The students are all part of the Campus for Rural Health Program through OHSU, established in 2015.

Elements viewed as "signature experiences of the university" are overseen by Elena Andresen, executive vice president and provost of OHSU. As she explained it, the Campus for Rural Health Program is one of those elements, born out of the desire to expand inter-professional aspects of student learning but also to give them experience on how to serve patients in rural areas.

The program was first launched on the South Coast, at the same time as in Klamath Falls, in the fall of 2015. There is also a site in northeast Oregon, but in order to build these three sites so far from the major OHSU campus takes what Andresen described as thought, investment and planning to make sure all of the clinical students had access to resources they needed.

“It was speedy to get this off the ground,” she said. “It often takes a fair amount of time for a university to move into other areas to send students out, but this was a priority for OHSU in terms for what we feel our responsibility is for being the only health and science center for the state.”

For Andresen, she was a dean at the time when the idea for this program was first talked about back in 2013. From what she saw, it was generated by leadership saying “we need to do the right thing in terms of training in our presence in rural areas.”

“The idea was homegrown at OHSU, not prompted by some big, national movement,” she said, adding that many universities have students go to rural sites depending on availability and OHSU also operated the same way until now. “What’s different with this model is that we have three sites where we have people embedded in the community, office space for things to happen, and deep relationships with the community.”

When OHSU puts a student through a rural rotation, students observe the structure of healthcare and the need for people to pull together in rural areas in order to deliver quality care.

“The students talk about the complexity, the difference in social resources, how it is harder to get healthcare in a rural area,” Andresen said. “The practitioners are extraordinary and problem-solve through delivering quality care.”

Not only that, but the university is devoted to inter-professional education, meaning students learn cross disciplines from, with and about each other.

The students take a class that look at the social determinate of health, while also work together on a community project. That project is, in part, selected by the community itself.

“We know quality healthcare depends more and more on good teamwork, so that is a component they are learning at the Campus for Rural Health, not just in the classroom,” Andresen said.

In Coos County, some of those community projects have spanned from healthy eating and active living to working with Advanced Health on the patient center primary care home model. The projects involved focus groups and surveys, which contributed to the conversation on a deeper level than what just the partners could do on their own, according to Amy Dunkak, the rural campus operations director.

Currently, the community project centers around the Nancy Devereux Center in an effort to understand barriers to care for the homeless population.

“I was fortunate to go to the Devereux Center and sit in on orientation with students this week,” said Dunkak. “The students are engaged in a series of interviews with the homeless population.”

Dunkak pointed to the center’s director, Tara Johnson, as being motivated to gather this information as a way to work on future grants and growth potential, while also use this information to meet the needs of the community. Dunkak said Johnson hopes to come back to the community to inform it of the results of this project, particularly the medical community to help better serve the local homeless.

The project began in January, and Dunkak believes it will end in May. The results should be available in June or July.

Before the program even began, Dunkak said students on rotation weren’t aware of each other. Now, they have the chance to interact, learn together, and complete projects like this one at the Devereux Center in unison. Dunkak described it now as having a cohort to share these experiences with, while also improving OHSU’s recruiting opportunities to the program.

The program is at capacity with eight students now. In OHSU’s school of dentistry, students first did a four-week rotation but now have eight week rotations. Meanwhile, medical and nursing students are on four-week rotations, but medical students can go up to 12-weeks if they get onto the Oregon Rural Scholars Program. Different than all the rest are the pharmacy students. They are here anywhere from three to six months, if not longer.

Just in 2018, the program rotated 87 students through the South Coast. Since it began, the program has rotated a total of 270 students on the Couth Coast.

OHSU has looked at housing opportunities in Coos County which could increase the number of students on rotation, including the old McAuley Hospital site which is owned by Advanced Health, but nothing is set in stone at this point.

“We think we can go up from there and at other sites,” Andresen said. “We will look for options and investment. The limiting factor is how many places we have for students given that we lease housing. We would love to expand and have conversations about increasing how many students we have. We're very excited about this program.”