A small business owner named Natalie in Bellingham, WA, developed an allergic reaction that dermatologists couldn’t diagnose. With a reaction across her body and her livelihood at risk, she didn’t know where to turn. Then her Unity Care Northwest health care provider discovered the source of the allergy: a rare sensitivity to some of the flowers in the floral shop she owned. A simple over-the-counter medication solved her problem, and she was back to full capacity at work in no time.
Stories like this are one reason the Murdock Trust is so grateful to support health care organizations across the Pacific Northwest. Clinics serving rural Alaskan communities, behavioral health units in Idaho hospitals, mental health clinics in Montana, integrated local health care providers in rural Oregon, and clinics like Unity Care Northwest in Washington are each doing their part in creating a healthier Pacific Northwest by caring for people like Natalie.
Unity Care NW believes that all people deserve the opportunity to live their healthiest life. But for many in Whatcom County, WA, this is made difficult by financial challenges and other life circumstances. Over 15% of their patients experience homelessness, according to Jodi Joyce, chief executive officer.
“There are many people in Whatcom County who don’t have ready access to health care, let alone health care that they can afford,” said Joyce.
By providing medical, dental, behavioral health, and pharmacy services to all regardless of their ability to pay, Unity Care NW is working toward its mission to increase the years of healthy life in the people and communities it serves. It is also working to broaden the vision of what health care can offer.
Joyce has explained that sometimes health clinics are seen as a resource for emergency care, but at Unity Care NW, the vision is much larger. “Often we have patients who are in need of understanding how to eat more healthily. What are the things that they can do to manage chronic conditions and to thrive despite the fact that they have something that they’ll have for the rest of their lives?”
“We try to bring all these different professionals together who have different perspectives and different vantage points so it’s a better, deeper, richer understanding of health,” said behavioral health director Grant Guiley.
The clinic was founded by a pastor of a Lutheran church who was interested in serving the needs of his immediate community. The first and greatest identified issue was a lack of low-income health care. Eventually, a coalition was formed between local congregations, a medical society, and a social action agency that connected low-income patients with physicians willing to see them in their own practice. Many years and many patients later, this evolved into the health clinic that is today Unity Care NW. The clinic now sees more than 100 patients daily.
The Murdock Trust has been grateful to support Unity Care NW with four grants since 2012, including a grant to expand their services to the North Whatcom region which eased capacity in their Bellingham sites, a grant to support project expenses and equipment for a new dental clinic, COVID-19 relief funding, and more.
“There is such an atmosphere of kindness [at Unity Care NW],” said Martha, a Unity Care patient. “I feel like the care that I get here gives me hope.”
For Martha, for Natalie, and for so many others, Unity Care NW is more than just a health clinic; it is a chance to live a more flourishing life. And when individuals are given the opportunity to flourish, families and communities thrive too. To Unity Care NW and the many other incredible health organizations serving communities across the Pacific Northwest, a heartfelt thank you!