Rep. Denny Heck

Congressman Denny Heck, D-Olympia, listens to Sea Mar Community Health Center officials last Friday in Yelm.

Congressman Denny Heck, D-Olympia, visited the Sea Mar Community Health Center last Friday in Yelm to discuss the issues faced by community clinics in the area.

“The purpose of this visit was for Rep. Heck to tour Sea Mar’s Yelm clinic and talk about health care issues, especially their work to integrate behavioral health care within their provided services,” said Kati Rutherford, Heck’s spokesperson. “His visit and what he learned from speaking with the health care professionals at Sea Mar’s Yelm clinic helps inform the policy decisions he makes related to health care.”

Currently the biggest challenges faced by the Sea Mar clinic in Yelm is the lack of doctors and other health care providers, clinic Manager Belinda Montgomery said. It is hard to recruit providers to the clinic because of its location in Yelm. Most providers don’t want to commute to here and often say it is out of the way, she said. This can make it difficult to keep up with the demand in the community to provide comprehensive care.

“It is much more than a clinic with doctors,” Montgomery said.

The clinic provides primary care, behavioral health services, dental care, chronic disease management and family planning to more than 5,000 people in the greater Yelm area, Montgomery said. When the clinic first opened in 2014, many patients had not seen a doctor in some time. Now it takes two to three weeks to get an appointment, so it serves a need in the community, she added.

“We are engaged with the Yelm community and care about the Yelm community,” Montgomery said. “That is why we are here.”

Sea Mar serves about 245,000 people in Western Washington, providing more than a million individual services, according to its website.

It is easier to understand something if seen in person, Heck said. The information gathered at the clinic will help him defend these efforts in Washington, D.C.

“What they do every day is not an esoteric concern in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “We have voted 63 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act that supports these efforts.”

Heck opposes repealing the law.

Heck also visited small businesses, local hospitals and manufacturing facilities in the South Sound region in addition to the clinic visit, Rutherford said.

“Rep. Heck learns more about the delivery of health care by visiting local hospitals, clinics, and other health providers, in order to talk to the people that devote their careers to providing high quality health care,” she said. “(He) believes those most engaged in the delivery of health care provide useful insight into how policy Congress enacts actually works in practice, and how we can make improvements or keep what works.”

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