Service for the most vulnerable in our community

When Providence Newberg Medical Center and George Fox University teamed up seven years ago, no one really knew how much of a difference it would make for Yamhill County residents with mental health needs.

“In our busy world, sometimes patients just need someone to sit, listen and help them. They need uninterrupted time where someone can listen to them,” says Russ Riggs, M.D., director of the Emergency Department at Providence Newberg. “And in an emergency room, we’re constantly interrupted.”

At nearby George Fox University, advanced doctoral students in the Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology have the knowledge and desire to help behavioral health patients. A partnership between Providence and George Fox was born, and Providence helps pay the students’ stipend. Today, 14 students provide behavioral health services at hospitals in Newberg and McMinnville. Patients who come to the Newberg ED can get same-day appointments at George Fox’s behavioral health clinic. Students also provide after-hours behavioral health care in the ED. 

One student, Tina Kang, M.S., recalls a man who visited the ED several times a month. She convinced him to use the behavioral health clinic and to participate in a free six-week group for patients experiencing persistent pain. His ED visits decreased significantly, and he got the support and skills to manage his pain.

“I don’t have the words to demonstrate our appreciation to Providence,” says Mary Peterson, Ph.D., chairperson of the Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology at George Fox. “This really is a partnership – it’s a warm collaboration for patient care. Together we can serve the most vulnerable patients who don’t have other resources.” 

Dr. Riggs is equally enthusiastic about what George Fox brings to the table, saying the program has “done wonders” for patients and has freed up his team to provide critical emergency care.