Pulse of Elgin Health District beats $78,000 stronger, thanks to grant

September 06, 2013 10:41 am
ELGIN — The Elgin Health District’s board of directors made several landmark announcements recently. 

Foremost among them is the receipt of a $78,000 grant for the dental clinic from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. It also announced the appointment of Melissa Coe as a new board member and an accepted offer to purchase land in the city of Elgin for a future clinic.

“We got word that we received $78,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust that will finish everything we need to provide full dentistry in Elgin now,” said board member and spokesperson Jared Rogers. “It’s a dental grant that will allow us to get the rest of the equipment and supplies to go beyond routine exams and minor fillings to full dentistry. We’re very grateful.”

Last July, dental provider Dr. Eli Mayes made dentistry available to Elgin-area patients, closing a 25-year gap during which no dental services were offered in town. With the Murdock grant, Mayes will have the state-of-the-art equipment and instruments to offer full-spectrum dental services at the Elgin Family Health Clinic at 1400 Division St.

Rogers said that Dr. Mayes welcomes patients with private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare and those on the Oregon Health Plan.

“In Elgin we have a great need for OHP and Medicaid-type providers,” said Rogers. “The way our leases work with the medical and the dental providers (in Elgin) is that if they are willing to accept patients with OHP or Medicaid, we’ll discount their rent on a percentage basis. Our goal is to get anybody who needs care to be taken care of, and the medical and dental providers are willing to work with us in this manner.”

Elgin-area patients are already responding and filling the appointment schedule at the clinic for the dentist and dental hygienist.

“Dr. Mayes filled all his Mondays the first month (July). Now he’s filling Mondays and Tuesdays in his second month,” Rogers said. Once the mental health and medical staff schedules reach a full four days a week, he added, “then we’ll start looking at building. That’s several months down the road though.”

At the clinic’s present rate of growth, the district’s board of directors felt it would be wise to look for land. They had the funds earmarked for capital improvement and land acquisition, so they worked with Ron Smith of RE/MAX Real Estate Team in La Grande.

“The realtor looked around for us,” Rogers said,  “and there just aren’t that many building sites in town right now, so we went ahead and made an offer, and the seller accepted it.”

The district’s offer was verbally accepted by Wilford Gauthier, representing the estate of Mona E. Anderson.

“We haven’t signed papers yet,” said Rogers, “but we’re drawing up the papers to be signed. That’s exciting.”

The property is located on Baltimore, west of O&M Gas and Groceries. 

“There are no immediate plans to build, but with a busy dentist, hygienist, mental health and medical practice, our little clinic is really cramped up there,” Rogers said. “As long as things keep progressing as they are, then maybe the USDA or somebody will loan us money like they did on the fire hall.”

In past years, the USDA gave a low-interest, long-term loan to the Elgin Rural Fire Protection District, and Rogers said that the USDA told him they also give loans on medical buildings.

“When the time is right that’s who we’ll talk to first,” he said, “and then we’ll obviously try to get grants if we can. We’ve been really lucky on this dental project, receiving between $140,000 and $150,000 now in grant money that really helped us stock, equip and remodel our dental clinic.”

In addition to these announcements, the health district board of directors also appointed Melissa Coe to fill the chair formerly held by Al Smolkowski. Coe had been a board member in the past and showed interest in serving again. 

Irene Garlitz also showed interest in serving on the board, but cannot do so until the next election, Rogers said.

To prepare for a possible new board member in 2015, board members Mary Rose Nichols, Cheryl Coe, Betty Lou Martin, Melissa Coe and Rogers voted to add a sixth position to the current five-member board.

“We cannot appoint anyone to a newly created board of directors position until the next election,” Rogers said, “but in the meantime, we have invited Garlitz to sit in on the meetings.”