Health Care Access and Addressing Complex Health Needs

Our goal:

Increase access to health care for rural residents and build a network of support to address complex health needs.

Why it matters:

Everyone deserves access to quality health care, regardless of where they live. This is especially true in East Whatcom County, a rural region facing significant challenges:

  • East Whatcom County has no medical facilities and only one private dental practice. Residents must travel long distances for basic care.
  • Reliable private and public transportation is scarce, making it even harder to reach healthcare providers.
  • Poverty is a significant factor in East Whatcom County, creating additional hurdles to accessing healthcare.

These barriers can have serious consequences:

  • Difficulty reaching healthcare providers can lead to delayed diagnoses and treatment of health problems, potentially worsening conditions.
  • People with complex health and social needs, like chronic conditions or mental health issues, may struggle to find the comprehensive care they require.
  • Limited access to healthcare can negatively impact a person’s overall health and well-being.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) significantly increased health insurance coverage and dental access in Whatcom County, as reflected in the initial Community Health Assessment and Improvement Plan (CHIP) developed in 2010. With this progress in basic access, healthcare partners are now focusing on improving systems of care for people with complex health and social needs. This includes both children and adults who face challenges managing chronic conditions, mental health issues, or other complex needs.

This shift in focus reflects a commitment to ensuring everyone in Whatcom County has the opportunity to live a healthy life.

Data highlights

Health Care Access in Whatcom County

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded health insurance access in Whatcom County, the focus is now shifting towards improving systems for those with complex needs and expanding health care access to rural communities. This includes supporting individuals with chronic…

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What we’re working on:

Access to Care in Our Rural Communities

  • Annual East Whatcom Health Fairs: East Whatcom Health Services Coalition hosts free one-day events offering community medical, dental, and mental health services.
  • Mobile Vaccination & Dental Clinics: Initially focused on COVID-19 vaccines, these clinics now offer routine childhood immunizations, adult vaccinations, and dental care throughout East County.
  • School-Based Health Center Planning: Mount Baker School District received a planning grant to establish a school-based health center, a proven strategy to improve student health and academic achievement.
  • Whatcom Oral Health Coalition: In collaboration with oral health organizations and community-based services, the Whatcom Oral Health Coalition is building community capacity to increase access to quality and affordable oral health services where (geographic) and for whom (populations) there is the highest need

Addressing Complex Needs

Want to learn more or get involved?

Want to learn more or get involved?  You can find a full systematic review of the strategy from The Community Guide and read the full report and findings from the Community Preventive Services Task Force. Contact us to get involved!