Climbing toward lofty goals - The Way to Wellville at the end of two years


By Sue Cody


Clatsop Kids Go 5Envision a place where all kids have high-quality education, where their social and emotional needs are met, where they have access to healthy food and medical care. What if there were a way to improve the 70 percent graduation rate in Clatsop County? What if obesity, drug use, alcoholism and crime could be reduced?


Those are lofty goals that are built on ideas identified by participants at community forums when Clatsop County was chosen as one of The Way to Wellville communities.


A community forum will offer updates on Way to Wellville initiatives Wednesday, Jan. 11. Speakers include Way to Wellville founder Esther Dyson and Clatsop County Strategic Council members Dan Gaffney, Debbie Morrow, Stacey Brown, Paulette McCoy and Jeanette Schacher.


The event is free and open to the public, 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express, 204 W. Marine Drive in Astoria.


Clatsop County is one of only five Way to Wellville communities nationwide chosen to improve health by investing in wellness and disease prevention rather than spending endless dollars on chronic health care. Two years into the five-year program, infrastructure and a business plan are nearly completed and many initiatives have been launched.


“The Way to Wellville continues to gain momentum through stronger collaboration across the county’s government, nonprofit and business sectors,” says Marya Stark, a national Wellville team member who is the navigator for the local Strategic Council. “We’re nearing completion of a plan to create a trauma informed community.”


The latest result of collaboration is a $350,000 grant to Clatsop County from the U.S. Department of Education to identify the needs and assess the feasibility of universal preschool. Way to Wellville Strategic Council members worked many hours with the county and other partners to craft the grant application.


“In 2017, we will begin building our business plan for universal preschool,” Stark says, as part of an international movement to publicly fund quality preschool for all families.


What is The way to Wellville?


Instead of investing in health care, investor Esther Dyson offered a challenge to communities to work together to create a healthier environment. The Way to Wellville prompts communities to combine their resources, cooperate and invest in healthy living. The Wellville 5, all communities of fewer than 100,000 people, make a five-year commitment to create strategies to improve health locally, and ultimately attract investment.


“The whole point of The Way to Wellville is to help communities apply well-known techniques in sustained initiatives that are accountable, measurable and ultimately fundable,” Dyson says.


The Way to Wellville in Clatsop County is sponsored by the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization and has technical support from CareOregon, two local health care nonprofits.


Clatsop County’s Way to Wellville Strategic Council, composed of county employees, health care professionals, educators, business and recreational leaders, uses a multi-pronged approach to address issues arising in four focus areas: Community Wellness, Emotional Health, Health Care Access and Financial Opportunity.


The impact of early childhood education


The council decided it could make the biggest impact in early childhood education. That turns out to have been a good call.


A study released in December shows early childhood education returns 13 percent per child in cost benefits through better earning power, less crime, improved social behavior and reduced need for special education and health expenditures. The study was based on children who entered preschool at age 3 or 4, and were followed until about age 35.


One of the authors, Nobel Prize winner and economics professor James J. Heckman says, “Investing in the continuum of learning from birth to age 5 not only impacts each child, but it also strengthens our country’s workforce today and prepares future generations to be competitive in the global economy tomorrow.”


Building on strengths


The Clatsop Way to Wellville Strategic Council met for a retreat in August to review what has been accomplished and set goals for the coming year. National Way to Wellville team members Marya Stark and Jeff Domeland helped facilitate the retreat.


The council discussed and amended the Strategic Council Charter, and decided to meet every other month. Though, the four focus groups may meet as often as committee members request.


Cameron Moore, Clatsop County manager, was introduced as a new member of the Strategic Council. Recently Skyler Archibald, executive director of Sunset Empire Park and Recreation Department joined the council.


More than $90,000 in grants from Providence Health & Services, Columbia Memorial Hospital, Windermere Stellar, Columbia Pacific CCO and US Bank have helped move Way to Wellville initiatives forward.




Economic Development team: Dan Gaffney, Greg Peterson, Cameron Moore

• Feasibility study for universal preschool

• Scholarships for preschool providers to attend CEDR classes

• Childcare professional development


Health Care Access team: Paulette McCoy, Nancy Knopf and Nicole Williams:

• Attracting more primary care physicians to the North Coast

• Telemedicine, looking into Providence Express Care kiosk

• Increasing collaboration between Columbia Memorial and Providence Seaside hospitals to share wellness and prevention classes

• FamilyWize discount prescription cards

• Pay for Success


Emotional Health: Stacey Brown, Debbie Morrow, Nancy Knopf

• Prenatal to workforce ready education

• ACEs, early childhood screenings

• Mentors, CADY, Lunch Buddies, SMART readers

• Community education

• Trauma informed care, applying for grant

• Recruit for Head Start

• Pocket Full of Feelings training and distribution of kits


Community Wellness: Nicole Williams, Paulette McCoy, Jeanette Schacher, Kristen Tschanen

• Rx 4 Play – second year of funding

• Passport for Wellness, elementary school program to reduce and prevent obesity

• 2,000 Mile Challenge

• Worksite Wellness

• HEAL Cities


Six members of the Clatsop County Way to Wellville Strategic Council attended the national gathering of the Wellville 5 and national teams in Spartanburg, S.C.


“It was amazing to meet all the Wellville teams,” said Paulette McCoy, community outreach manager at Providence Seaside Hospital. “We received great information from outside vendors and experts in the health field. I appreciated the opportunity to have a full voice to explain our needs and challenges in Clatsop County.”


The annual gathering was designed for the Wellville communities to deepen their relationships and connect with vendors through breakout sessions, panel discussions and field trips.


“Part of the experience is envisioning a pathway,” said Marya Stark, national navigator for Clatsop County’s Wellville team. Through sharing information, Dan Gaffney said, “I came away with some significant ideas to contemplate.”


Clatsop County’s Way to Wellville will sponsor this year’s national gathering in May.




Working with community partners and about $90,000 in grants, the local Way to Wellville has created programs that focus on childhood health and development, and healthy activities for adults.


Rx 4 Play: Designed to increase physical activity for residents at risk for obesity and other health problems, physicians and other providers prescribe play for their patients. Incentives include park and recreation passes and free parking at state and national parks. Local providers have written 3,000 prescriptions.


2,000 Mile Challenge: Teaming with the National Park Service, more than 400 people logged 73,000 miles during the one-year challenge.


Early Childhood Clinic: Children were assessed for hearing, physical, visual, development, speech and nutritional benchmarks, while parents were interviewed and offered support materials.


Passport for Wellness or Clatsop Kids Go: This program for Clatsop County third-, fourth- and fifth-graders is designed to reduce and prevent obesity. The goal is to create a culture of positive attitudes, knowledge and behaviors around nutrition, physical activity and emotional well-being.


Paper Tigers: “Paper Tigers” is a film of hope, possibilities and courage. It features the Walla Walla, Wash., community and Lincoln High School, an alternative school that specializes in educating traumatized youth. It gives an intimate look at their challenges and shows how changing the approach to problems has a dramatic effect on success. A showing at the Liberty Theater attracted 300 people.


Pocket Full of Feelings: This educational kit is designed to teach children from pre-kindergarteners to teenagers how to deal with their feelings and change their behavior. Tools include interactive cards, coloring books, workbooks, teachers’ tools and more to help raise emotional intelligence for academic success.


Tall Cop Says Stop: Two community education forums addressed drug and alcohol abuse and how to recognize paraphernalia.


FamilyWize: The Way to Wellville and United Way of Clatsop County partnered to bring free FamilyWize prescription savings cards to the community. The community has saved more than $6,000 in medical prescription costs.


For more information visit or the Facebook page Way to Wellville Clatsop County.


The James Heckman study is The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program. A related article can be found at