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MailTribune.com
  • County health building grows to meet demand

    More parking will be added at county health building as health care sign-ups surge
  • A 60 percent surge in health care sign-ups locally over the last year has prompted Jackson County to invest another $3 million into a downtown Medford health-care center.
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  • A 60 percent surge in health care sign-ups locally over the last year has prompted Jackson County to invest another $3 million into a downtown Medford health-care center.
    In January 2013, after the county began construction of the health building on West Eighth Street near City Hall, 33,000 people were signed up for the Oregon Health Plan.
    By April 2014, the numbers had spiked to 53,000, or about 1 out of 4 Jackson County residents.
    "The challenge is that the number of people using the building has been skyrocketing," said Harvey Bragg, senior deputy county administrator.
    The county will use the $3 million to add two more stories onto a six-story parking lot, increasing the number of spaces from 400 to 550.
    Last year, the county increased the footprint of the health services building, which will be 97,000 square feet.
    Bragg said the building should be able to handle the increased number of people on the state health plan.
    The cost of the health services building and parking garage now totals almost $33 million.
    The county is using reserves to help fund the building. Bragg said the health department will lease the building from the county, which will allow the county to put more dollars into its general fund operating budget to pay for other county services.
    Bragg said the lease amount that will be charged to the health department hasn't been decided yet.
    The new building will offer one-stop shopping for clients. A central intake area, similar to a concierge, will schedule and direct clients to various services.
    Some of the services will include a 24-hour mental health holding area, a nutrition program for women and children, health services for adults and children, alcohol and drug addiction services and a teen health center.
    "This building is unique in the country," said David Wilkerson, a principal at Ogden Roemer Wilkerson Architecture, which designed the building. "There is nothing else like this."
    Wilkerson said the design helps streamline the process to deliver services efficiently and under one roof. The county now maintains multiple buildings to provide health services.
    The county has put most of its money on the inside of the building to provide more efficient service, he said.
    With the new floors added, the garage will be 75 feet in height, Wilkerson said, but still shorter than City Hall and the Medford Hotel on Main Street.
    Commissioner John Rachor was the only commissioner who voted against spending the $3 million for the parking garage.
    "My opinion is that we at the county are not obligated to provide parking for our employees," he said.
    Rachor said 267 spaces will be reserved for employees.
    He said the location for the health services building was chosen because it was close to the bus line, which he thinks many of the health service clients might use.
    "As time goes on, I wouldn't be surprised if the traffic habits changed," he said.
    He said other organizations such as La Clinica will also lease space inside the new building.
    Despite his reservations about spending the additional money, Rachor said he supports the investment in the health services building.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/reporterdm.
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