Community foundation tackles local health care

A preliminary analysis tipped them off: some islanders are having difficulty getting access to needed medical, dental and mental health care.

The Orcas Island Community Foundation wants to know more.

“What is the real status of mental, dental and medical care on the island?” asked board member Helen Bee at a recent gathering of health care professionals, philanthropists and other concerned citizens.

Over the next year, foundation board members plan to gather as much information as possible on the subject, and they want to hear from community members.

The foundation’s mission is clear: come up with a feasible, measurable and sustainable approach to meet urgent needs on Orcas Island.

This initiative is in addition to the foundation’s annual grants distributions, and the budget has not yet been determined. Based on the foundation’s understanding of local philanthropists, said Bee, “If we present donors with clear, achievable goals, we think the pool will grow.”

An 18 month-long Community Needs Assessment concluded last year surveyed about 50 islanders, and indicates access to care as a top concern. Now OICF wants to delve deeper.

“We just know we don’t know enough,” said Bee.

She asked attendees at the brainstorming session to suggest what kinds of information are needed; ways to gather it; and ways the foundation could potentially “move the dial,” increasing access to health care in each attendee’s area of expertise.

A major topic that arose was coordination of services, executive director Hilary Canty told the Sounder later. Attendees suggested improving connections between various care providers; for example, local doctors said they wanted to know more about where patients could find in-home assistance. The Islands Reproductive Health Initiative has already produced a thorough listing of available reproductive health care on the island, providing information on one important component of care. The preliminary session involved roughly 30 people.

“There are a lot more people we’d like to hear from that weren’t in the room,” said Canty. “We’re very interested in hearing from other folks with their concerns and ideas.” She said they’ll be assessing how many people are already being served, and why others aren’t getting coverage.

After gathering more data, the foundation will choose one to three ideas they can put into action this year that will achieve results.

OICF overhead

OICF’s detailed 990 tax return is online at There is a link on the Financials and Investments page, which directs users to

In a nutshell, the foundation will distribute close to $600,000 this year: $100,000 through its annual grants cycle and over $450,000 through donor advised funds and community campaigns like the food bank building. In 2010, program and administration expenses totaled $123,000. That includes staff salaries, benefits, and taxes totaling $85,500 for 1.5 FTE.