This winter, the Methow Valley News wrote two articles on the growing need for affordable housing and centered the voices of a few people who are impacted most. Have a look, stay connected:
This winter, the Methow Valley News wrote two articles on the growing need for affordable housing and centered the voices of a few people who are impacted most. Have a look, stay connected:
We often say that Room One is like a family. We care for each other relentlessly, we find a way to laugh through our mistakes, we know and honor each other's stories. Cathy and Cate are family here.
Cathy is finishing a six year board term and has been a guiding star in the booming constellation of Room One. In all conversations, but especially the hard ones, she shows up as a constant learner, a steadfast advocate for our neighbors and staff, and a meticulous, inspiringly smart thought partner. She is a pillar of Room One, and a friend we adore. To say the least, we will miss her - but she will always be in the Room One family.
Cate wove Room One’s values into the complex world of fundraising. We have all witnessed her sharp sense for strategy and her knack for making people feel at home, like they are seen and important. Cate brought her heart and her brilliance to this work, and we are all made better, more connected, more whole, because of it. Cate and her family are relocating to Eugene, Oregon, we wish them all the best.
We will miss you Cathy and Cate. From all of us, thank you for being part of Room One and this Methow Valley community we call home.
Welcome to our Board, Natalie! What inspires you most about the Room One mission?
I am continuously inspired by the work Room One does to support people and families of all walks of life in the Methow Valley and beyond. It is a true example of the community coming together and finding ways to support each other in a valley and county where the lack of social services can otherwise be overwhelming.
What brought you to the Room One community?
I'm a lawyer in Winthrop with a practice that focuses on water rights and land use law, business transactions, and estate planning services. I volunteered as an attorney for Room one before being elected to the board, so I have a professional connection as well as a personal connection to the organization. I am especially interested in continuing to grow Room One's legal services program and our outreach on issues surrounding youth detention in Okanogan County.
You were born abroad; how did you find your way to the Methow Valley?
I grew up in Germany, went to college at Wellesley and law school Harvard, and then worked in Manhattan for over a decade, first for a wall street law firm and then for the U.S. Attorney's Office. I always knew I wanted to leave the east coast, though, and see what the west has to offer. I ended up in Winthrop by sheer luck of the draw: I received a job offer for a six-month position here, and like for so many others the rest is history... I wake up every day thanking my lucky stars to have landed in the Methow.
In the spirit of the holidays, Room One is organizing a book drive for Juvenile Detention. We know that youth who are incarcerated at Juvenile Detention spend a lot of time alone in their cells reading and a new collection of books in their library would make a big difference in their daily life . If you have a book (only soft cover please) that made an impact on you when you were a teen, please drop it by Room One.
This fall, Room One welcomed two incredible new staff members to our team!
Erin Flahive, a former Room One staff member and recent graduate in the Master of Social Work program at Eastern Washington University, has re-joined our staff as a Client Advocate. Erin will be working directly with our neighbors on their path to health and well-being in our One-Stop Support Center, and helping to build programs that build equity in our community.
Sarah Washam has joined Room One in a new role, Family Advocate. The Family Advocate will provide in depth, wrap around support for families with young children. As part of her new position, Sarah will partner with families and staff at Little Star South Collaborative to support families in accessing the childcare and other critical resources. Sarah is Methow Valley native, holds a M.A. in Counseling from Western Seminary and has worked with youth and their families across the northwest.
Please help us in welcoming Erin and Sarah to the Room One community!
In a rural location like the Methow Valley, it can be difficult, and at times feel impossible, for aging and isolated community members to find the support they need to lead safe, full lives. The Lookout Coalition, now in its 6th year as a Room One program, centers their supportive resources individuals and families facing complex medical or end of life issues.
In 2017, the Lookout Coalition has assisted 92 individuals in our community, 56% more clients served than in 2015. While the challenges our neighbors face are wide ranging, feedback from our community is consistent t: Lookout volunteer providers make a difference in the lives of the families they work with. When asked what they valued the most from their LOC provider, clients shared:
“Someone to talk to who has been through the hospice program who could tell us what to expect and who to go to for questions & referrals. Loved how responsive they were on the phone when I felt alone and afraid.”
“Assistance and non-judgmental compassion and expertise, kindness and remaining effective when I was falling apart.”
“The Lookout Coalition helped clarify who to talk to and gave some general guidance on what to expect when taking care of a dying loved one. They helped reduce the extreme stress of the situation.”
In addition to direct services, LOC staff is at the table of several community conversations that bring and build health resources for our community. The LOC played an instrumental role in developing the Methow Valley’s suicide intervention team and is a key participant within a regional health care provider network to integrate and develop safety net services for crisis or acute care needs. As need continues to grow across our community and we see changes to health care provision for vulnerable community members, Room One and the Lookout Coalition are critically examining the next phase of the program while staying responsive to what we know is a critical need: compassionate support for our most vulnerable neighbors.
It’s been a busy fall for our Okanogan Healthy Youth staff, to say the least! This year we’ve partnered with five county school districts: Methow Valley, Pateros, Paschal Sherman Indian School, Bridgeport and Brewster to build comprehensive sexual health education programs provento reduce teen pregnancy. In September, staff held a full day training for classroom teachers implementing the curriculum and have spent the fall traveling around the county to teach in classrooms and support teachers and administration create sustainable, responsive programs. Here’s just a few of the many reflections we’ve heard from students:
"Sex ed taught me good choices that I can make in life."
“"My teacher showed us ways to say ‘no’ to things we don't want."
"I learned to that it's important to have knowledge of contraception when you have sex."
This year marks the fourth year Room One has provided Certified Navigators for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange to the Methow Valley community, helping hundreds of our neighbors access quality, affordable health insurance. This year, many of those signing up for health insurance will see significant changes in coverage and price. Only two insurers remain on Washington’s Health Insurance Exchange in Okanogan County, and, for many, rates will increase 20-40% or more, with much less coverage. Insurance companies are citing uncertainty over the future of the Affordable Care Act under the current administration, decreased federal payments to insurers and increased costs as contributing to the rate increases.
Still, many of our neighbors are eligible for significant subsidies through the Exchange to offset the cost of insurance, and some, including many children, are eligible for no or very low cost insurance through the state Medicaid program, Apple Health. This year the open enrollment period is shorter, and folks need to sign up by December 15 to have insurance by January 1st, or January 15th for insurance starting February 1st. Call Room One for an appointment or go to www.wahealthplanfinder.org to sign up.
Our Youth Leadership Council are using their voice, and we are listening. Teens said loud and clear, confidentiality is a serious barrier to accessing reproductive health care in Okanogan County and national reports are reinforcing their message: “one in five 15-17 year-olds would not seek sexual and reproductive health care because of concerns their parents may find out.” In Okanogan County, with limited health care options serving small communities and no dedicated family planning clinic, teens face an uphill battle to confidentiality. While many teens have told us about getting great reproductive health services at local clinics, some teens have reported reminder phone calls going to their family’s voicemail, providers turning youth away unless they have a parent present, and front desk staff who don’t know about confidential billing options.
And we are responding. In partnership with local clinics and our Youth Leadership Council, Room One created a Know Your Rights card designed to help youth access reproductive health care. The fold out cards have information on a youth’s right to confidential health care, free and low-cost billing options, tips for talking to a provider, choosing the right form of birth control and more. Paired with increased training for clinic staff, the Know Your Rights card will help youth be bold advocates for their own health -- all a part of reducing Okanogan County’s high rate of teen pregnancy. Look for the cards at your local clinic, share them with teens you know!
This fall, our community has reason to celebrate! The opening of the Little Star South Collaborative (LSSC) childcare marks a significant step towards eliminating a critical barrier to health and well-being for many of our neighbors: access to high-quality, affordable childcare.
For years, our neighbors have shared with Room One their struggles to find childcare. A recent assessment showed up to 60% of local families with children 5 and under do not have the childcare they need. Not only does quality early childhood education support parents' ability to join the workforce and reduce stress, it has the power to change a child's life. Children with high quality early childhood education are more likely to graduate high school, attend college and own a home, and are less likely to become pregnant as teens or commit crimes. For our most vulnerable families and children, early childhood education matters.
Recognizing the need and unique potential to build lifelong health and opportunity alongside families, Room One partnered with Little Star and TwispWorks to launch the LSSC. The childcare will become a new site of Little Star, Room One will provide wrap-around family support services and partner with Little Star to provide parenting support and education. TwispWorks serves as a "place-maker," creating a welcoming home for families and connection to community.
We are so excited about this collaboration based not around a single non-profit's mission, but on an outcome identified and lifted up by our community: that all children, all families in the Methow Valley are able to access the resources they need to thrive.
We are two years into a five year grant for teen pregnancy prevention in Okanogan County and our progress is powerful and exciting. Last year we partnered with three Okanogan County school districts including Pateros, Paschal Sherman and Methow Valley as well as Juvenile Detention to teach and integrate comprehensive sexual health education that is shown to reduce teen pregnancies.
One of our partners, Barb Quintasket, Science Teacher at Paschal Sherman Indian School, recently wrote us:
"The partnership with Room One has been built on total trust and it has been very beneficial for our school. In my classroom it was beneficial in two different ways; the first result I saw from this program was the students gaining access to the information that they need to make healthy choices. The other result from this program has been an outcome that I didn’t anticipate. Because of the trust that was built during the program, I can bring up anything and the kids can bring up anything now. There has been a door of communication that has opened because of these classes. Now students feel safe coming to me with questions or support and nothing feels awkward to talk about. I see this as one of the most beneficial things that has happened in our school in a long time.”
Programs like ours have fueled a rapid decline in teen pregnancy rates, yet Tom Price, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has unilaterally ended the entire $210 million dollar program effective July 2018. Room One is doing our part to ensure our elected officials know what this funding means for rural communities like Okanogan, where 1 in 20 girls becomes a mother while in her teens. Click here to take action and advocate for this critical community-centered program.
Room One will continue to work with our partners across the county to prioritize strategies that will further reduce teen pregnancies. We are exploring funding streams and partnerships to help us maintain and sustain this vital movement. We are committed to ensuring all Okanogan youth have the knowledge and resources they need to prevent pregnancy, maintain reproductive health and be in control of their own future.
In 2015, the Washington State Supreme Court issued a call to action, stating that our legal system is failing to "deliver on the promise embedded in our nation's creed that liberty and justice be made available 'to all.'" Today, 76% of low income Washingtonians facing civil legal challenges do not get the help they need.
Unmet legal needs are on the rise among the most vulnerable in our community: those living in poverty, with a disability, the aging, survivors of domestic abuse, teens and the undocumented. Common needs include disillusions, landlord/tenant problems, guardianship, disability claims or school discipline. Without meaningful legal assistance, our neighbors often risk homelessness, miss or lose work, and children do not have safe and consistent parenting plans.
To address this critical gap, we have joined forces with a network of local lawyers here in the Methow. Our new volunteer attorney services program will help coordinate and organize attorneys to provide pro-bono or low cost legal services and build our staff's capacity to support our neighbors with basic legal assistance and case management. With the investment of our local attorneys, staff and larger community, this new program will connect our neighbors with a basic right: justice in our legal system.
Are you an attorney or know one who may be interested in joining us?Please call us at Room One to learn more: (509) 997-2050.
Two of our most beloved and inspiring visionaries of Room One, Lori Valentine and Sarah Brown, are embarking on new journeys. After five years as a Client Advocate, Lori is heading back to school to pursue a degree in nursing. Her humor, compassion and dedication to our neighbors in times when they needed her most will always be held with admiration and the deepest of gratitude.
Sarah Brown has served as our fearless board president for the past three years and is heading to Hungary on a Fulbright Scholarship. Thank you for giving your heart, bold vision and steady leadership to Room One, Sarah. We miss you already.
Welcome to our board, Robert! Which of Room One's programs do you find speaks to your heart the most? I have always been impressed by the idea of the One-Stop Support Center. When someone is considering suicide, finds themselves a victim of domestic violence or cannot navigate the social services available to them, knowing Room One is ready and willing to help is so critical. Because asking for assistance is for many a very difficult thing to do. We are all fortunate to have such a great resource available should we need it.
You were born and raised in the Methow Valley. How has life changed here in the past 30 years? When I was young the Valley seemed much quieter and the faces were mostly familiar. A new generation of Valley residents have brought diverse viewpoints, backgrounds and ideas about what makes the Methow a great place to call home, as well as new business opportunities, cultural experiences and non-profit philanthropy that augments the small-town familiarity I cherished in my younger years. A common quality to all of our neighbors regardless of who or how long you've lived here is a sense of pride in calling the Methow "home" and a willingness to look out for one another. Methow Valley residents have always been resilient and caring, and if it takes a village to raise a child, then my daughter is right where she needs to be.
How do you maintain your work-life balance as a new dad and full-time District Court Judge for Okanogan County? I love being a father even more than I could have imagined. I also enjoy the challenges of being a judge, where I do my best to see that justice is served and that everyone feels like they receive a fair hearing. But there's no way I could do a passable job at either without Korrie, Vesper's mama and my wife-to-be, who is also trying to balance parenthood with her career. Together (along with a little help) we find a way to give our daughter the love she needs, fulfill our professional ambitions and carve out a little time for one another. Both aspects of my life require a great deal of responsibility and I would like to think that the effort I put into each role makes me better at the other. But ultimately, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is: I could not do it without her support.
In 2016, Okanogan county ranked 36 out of 39 Washington counties in overall health. We know that building a healthier community involves centering resources around those who experience the poorest health, and understanding that the struggles of these same neighbors are often complex. Some children are unable to learn because they don’t have healthy food to eat, some families live out of their car because home isn’t safe, and the chronic depression of some parents goes untreated because their own well-being is the last priority.
With support from a new grant through the Department of Early Learning, we are sharpening our focus on the needs and strengths of our most vulnerable local families: those at highest risk of child abuse. Our approach will bring together resources and tools that matter most and, as always, help families build self-determined pathways to well-being.
Read on to learn how a few of our programs are supporting healthy, resilient families and righting the health inequities that affect them most.
After over ten years of running Mothering Groups we’ve learned that every person’s experience of becoming a mother is different, but the unexpected challenges, emotions and questions that arise with this new chapter affect everyone. Stress and isolation are common, and particularly present for new mothers living in poverty, struggling with substance abuse, or living with domestic violence. Far too often, women in rural communities like ours do not have the support they need to successfully transition into motherhood.
Mothering Group provides part of this critical support system. Based on the PEPS model, Mothering Group works to increase a family’s resilience by building knowledge and skills, reducing stress, and fostering trusting connection with others. New moms are connected to solid parenting resources and are encouraged to learn from each other, share experiences, and ask frank questions.
One new mother reflected:
“In such a small community it is hard to have privacy. When experiencing hardships, it can be extremely isolating as you don’t want the entire Valley knowing your struggles. This was my experience as a first time Mom with severe postpartum depression: I told no one. I was frightened to leave the house, so nervous to go in public with my screaming baby, if anyone saw me, they would see my failures. The only place that I would go was Room One.
I felt like if I could get from my front door to Room One, I would be okay. The Mothering Group gave me connection, practical skills and knowledge, the kind of information that a mother or grandmother would pass along. I have neither in my life, so I looked to Room One for tricks for nursing, how to make informed decisions, and so much more.”
Call Room One to learn more about Mothering Group: 509-997-2050.
Part of fostering resilience involves connecting families with opportunities for joy. The adage “families who play together stay together” seems to hold true: children who recreate with family feel more valued, and couples who recreate together report higher satisfaction in their relationships. In addition to physical health benefits, we also know that recreation encourages self-discovery, development of problem-solving skills, and increases a sense of connectedness --all important components of social mobility.
Yet, many lack the opportunity to benefit from play and time together. Low-income families are often unable to participate in sports or cultural activities because of barriers like user fees and equipment costs, transportation, inconsistent work schedules, or social support. Across the country the “activity gap” is on the rise: low-income youth are 30-50% less likely to participate in activities like sports than higher income children. Yet we know when children participate in extracurriculars, they develop skills and values that help them move out of poverty.
Fortunately, the value of increasing access to recreation is shared by you, our community. The Winter Access Program, made possible through dynamic partnerships, gets up to forty adults and children out in the snow. Methow Trails provides free ski passes for qualifying families connected to Room One, and gear is made available through Winthrop Mountain Sports, Methow Cycle and Sport and the Methow Valley Ski School. Together we are helping local families build resilience and have fun in the process.
Getting upstream of poverty and domestic violence means ensuring our neighbors have the tools and resources to determine their own future. Extraordinarily high rates of teen pregnancy tell us that we have to advocate powerfully here in Okanogan county to ensure women, youth, and families can control their own reproductive health. Without access to contraception and effective family planning services, we are fighting an uphill battle against health inequities in our community.
Because good policy is essential to good health, this year Room One is growing its advocacy muscle. In the next year, Room One is going to stay close to the national and state conversation on reproductive health care, advocate for our neighbors to have the health care they need, and, if you’re interested, call on you for support.
If you’d like to stay connected to the issues and movement around reproductive health, sign up for Room One alerts here.
This month, Room One was recognized as a “champion of health equity” by the Foundation of Healthy Generations. The Foundation’s “Spotlight Award” celebrates organizations and individuals that are “on the ground removing barriers to ensure that all people are valued equally and that everyone has the opportunity to attain their highest level of health.” As an organization fueled by the Methow and Okanogan community, we want you to know this award is yours as well. We are honored to be part of Room One with you!
As we continue to refine our own equity approach, we often admire and learn from a network of diverse organizations. Here are a few we thought might inspire you too:
Welcome to our board, Midge! What aspect or program of Room One are you most passionate about? When I lived in Bend, I served on the board of the Central Oregon Battering and Rape Alliance and worked with groups of women. I love men, and have wonderful male friends and relatives. But I LOVE women. I love their ability to care about and support one another and I absolutely know that they are wonderful, beautiful creatures, deserving of the best of life. That Room One offers programs that support and involve women is important to me and one aspect of the organization I most admire.
What part of your life's experience are you most looking forward to sharing on the Room One board? I think I'm fortunate to have been born both an optimist and a morning person; I think those go together to help me be resilient in the face of what could be considered adversity. I've had breast cancer twice, and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 16 years ago. I decided that neither of those situations would get in the way of what I want to do, and so far that has been true. I'd rather say "why not?" than "why?", and hope that attitude can be helpful, without being disgustingly chipper, as my sisters tell me I can be.