November 18, 2017
I wanted to reach out to the community this fall with a quick update regarding our work on the allied health college initiative work group that my colleagues and I successfully created in this year’s 2017 legislative session. It is no secret that our community and the greater Southern Oregon region has seen heavy hits to our economic health due to federal timber resources restrictions.
Despite the struggles felt in our part of the state, one area of our economy has seen growth. Health care in our region has expanded to keep up with our community’s growing needs. Health care demand throughout Southern Oregon is so great that CHI Mercy Health and the Roseburg VA have had trouble finding enough medical personnel to staff the massive need.
I believe that part of the solution to revitalizing our struggling economy and demand is to tap into this health care need, to drive future growth and long-term stability. We need to make it possible for our health care providers to continue providing and expanding services, especially as our population ages and we continue to see more retirement age individuals move into the area. We need to connect workers with new career job training opportunities and good health care jobs.
That’s why building an allied health college in Roseburg, which is centrally located in Southern Oregon, makes good economic and social sense. Not only will the school increase opportunities for those interested in the health care field, but the influx of students, faculty and their families will trigger supporting industries, strengthening and expanding economic activity in the region.
The beauty of this solution is that it is not dependent on attracting and retaining some large out-of-state corporation. Rather, it allows us to “grow our own.” Expanding our local economy in this way will help transform Roseburg, and Southern Oregon, into a place where our youth will want to call home after graduation.
This last legislative session, I worked with Oregonians for Rural Health, which includes among many others the Umpqua Economic Development Partnership, CHI Mercy Health and Roseburg VA, in securing bipartisan support for a state-supported work group, tasked with advancing the allied health college initiative. These steps signify a level of commitment from the state of Oregon that this project has not previously enjoyed.
In addition to securing state involvement in the effort, the project has seen increased support from community leaders and elected officials across the region and state. It was expanded on our partnerships with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs. The college would enable the VA to grow its own health care workforce, ensuring better care for our veterans who in Douglas County make up roughly 20 percent of our total population. Not only that, but veterans with medical training coming off active duty would be able to attend a college that provides them an opportunity to build upon and apply their skills in a civilian setting.
I believe the allied health college will be an important part of a revitalized regional economy and improved access to the critical health care services. This project will help the Douglas County area rediscover our sense of purpose, strength and identity.
We are a strong and ambitious people here in Douglas County and all we are asking for is that people let us earn and shape our own destiny. I ask for your support, and most of all your prayers, that we will achieve our goals in this worthy endeavor.
Dallas Heard is the Republican state representative for District 2.