A lot of exciting things are happening today in Douglas County that are helping to grow our regional economy and make it more recession-proof. Chief among them, Umpqua Health — one of our area’s top healthcare providers and parent organization to the Umpqua Health Alliance that connects over 26,000 local residents to services under the Oregon Health Plan — has just opened a brand new state-of-the-art medical clinic. This is good news for local residents in need of primary care and mental health services.

As a smaller rural area, it is tough to compete with urban centers for healthcare providers of all types — at a time, no less, when the demand for services continues to increase. Not having enough doctors, nurses and mental health counselors makes meeting the healthcare needs of children, families and seniors a big challenge. Umpqua Health’s sizable investment in its new 25,000-square-foot clinic bridges gaps in healthcare access that have been steadily worsening across our county in recent years.

Critical to the recruiting and retention of healthcare providers is having attractive facilities that are well-designed and equipped to serve patients at the highest level of care. Providers can work anywhere; We want them to work here. Umpqua Health’s new clinic complements our existing healthcare system and is a big step towards making Douglas County more attractive for providers. It helps assure providers they can work here over the long-term by showing them there is a strong commitment to healthcare in our community.

Healthcare gives us a viable pathway towards revitalizing and growing our regional economy. It provides good-paying jobs at all levels and contributes to other businesses through added spending. A strong healthcare system helps attract new businesses to the area and gives us a distinct competitive advantage. Local businesses, too, rely on a good healthcare system for their employees, and our children can best learn and reach their full potential when they are healthy.

Diversifying our regional economy by investing in healthcare is a smart way to create a more secure and prosperous future. The demand for healthcare will keep growing as our population ages and retirees from other states keep moving in. Our providers will need to continue adding jobs to meet our community’s steadily-expanding healthcare needs.

Healthcare offers us many opportunities to capitalize on, which is why I strongly support building an allied and mental health college in Roseburg. We need to have the ability to train a regional workforce of healthcare professionals. It is ironic that our young people are leaving to seek work in urban areas when there are family wage jobs to be had here. Yet another benefit of Umpqua Health’s new clinic is it can provide hands-on clinical educational opportunities for students in both physical and mental health fields.

Our communities need reliable access to local quality healthcare. Umpqua Health’s Newton Creek Clinic connects Douglas County residents with vital primary care and mental health services delivered by skilled providers right here in town. Why would you go anywhere else?

Tim Freeman is one of Douglas County’s Commissioners

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