'It's going to enable us to continue to grow our services in Oakridge'
OAKRIDGE, Ore. - Four years ago, Oakridge was rock bottom for health care services in Oregon.
There was one doctor in town.
The nearest hospital was 50 miles away.
Then two students doing a University of Oregon business school project had a vision.
"Our vision from the start was to be a foundation for Oakridge, for a healthy community," said Orion Falvey, executive director of Orchid Health.
That vision turned into Orchid Health, an independent, rural health care delivery system based on monthly membership fees.
A $70,000 combination of a state lottery grant and business loan from Lane County got the clinic off the ground in 2014.
"They leveraged that into starting a health clinic in the No. 1 area of the state for unmet health need," Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozievich said.
Now county commissioners have voted to waive the rest of the debt from that business loan - $19,600.
"With the loan forgiveness it's going to enable us to continue to grow our services in Oakridge, and we're really excited," Falvey said.
Think of orchid as combining the best of urgent care with primary patient care.
"They have reduced the usage of the emergency rooms, of the Trillium patients in that area by 42 percent," Bozievich said.
Now the loan debt savings will be invested in a third orchid clinic, probably in Cottage Grove.
Also in the planning stage is a new community health partnership for Oakridge residents.
"The goal of the program will be to better engage patients with high barriers to accessing care," Falvey said.
For board chairman Bozievich, state lottery funds have never been leveraged any better than with Orchid.
"They just have done a spectacular job," he said. "I couldn't be more pleased."