Contact: Thomas Hottman
The staff of the Sky Lakes Wellness Center inside the center's teaching kitchen on Thursday; from left, administrative assistant Tess Parsons, behavioral therapist Jeanette Rutherford, nutrition coordinator Jennifer Lehman, program director Katherine Pope and medical director Stephanie Vandyke. The health and wellness center is now open to the public.
Practicing a lifestyle of making mindful choices and improving quality of life and well being aren't just part of health care at Sky Lakes Wellness Center, but the primary focus of the services offered.
After offering wellness programs during 2015 to Sky Lakes employees and their spouses, the center in downtown Klamath Falls started offering its services to the general public earlier this month.
The center first opened last March under the direction of Medical Director Dr. Stephanie Van Dyke and Program Director Katherine Pope. One-year programs on weight loss, stress management, nutrition and services in behavioral therapy are offered at the center.
"We want people not just to live longer but to live better, to be younger longer," Pope said, referencing the wellness center's mantra 'Live Young.'
"We want to be available to the community, so we hope the community takes advantage."
Pope and Van Dyke, both originally from outside the Klamath Basin, formulated the idea for the center while studying in Baltimore. But the duo always knew the concept for the center would include a four-person team, including a dietician and a behavioral therapist.
"We knew from the very beginning that we couldn't do it on our own," Pope said.
The staff includes Jennifer Lehman, a certified diabetes educator, nutrition coordinator and registered dietician, and Jeanette Rutherford, a licensed professional counselor and behavioral therapist.
Staff offer participants classes in stress management and/or weight loss as well as courses in mindful meals and healthy cooking. Individuals meet one-on-one throughout the year for classes, one-on-one visits with a dietician and a physician, and other health updates. All programs are focused on personalized preventative care instead of a strictly reactive approach.
The cost to enroll in the program is $120 per month or $1,440 for the year-long program per person. The staff hopes that insurance companies can at some point cover the cost.
Medicaid and Medicare currently do not cover the costs associated with the wellness center programs, according to Pope.
"Currently we encourage all parties to approach their insurance companies to see if they'd be willing to reimburse," Pope said, "but right now, it's self-pay."
"We really want to be accessible to a wide variety of people," Rutherford added. "We want to serve underserved people. It's hard to figure out how to do that."
Each individual prospective participant should consult their insurance plan to see if their health savings account or flexible spending account is able pay for the program, according to Pope.
Staff believe that preventative health care can help keep costs for care down in the long run.
"It feels like there's a change within the community tipping towards looking for more prevention versus waiting until they have some kind of condition," Lehman said.
"Also recognizing the cost, even the personal cost associated with managing something like Type II Diabetes or cardiovascular disease, comes at a huge price whereas prevention might require a little effort up front but in the long run it saves both financial cost and quality of life."
Lehman said she hopes those enrolled in the center's programs leave having made positive changes as well as equipped with the desire to be open to positive changes in their health.
"We're offering mindful meals cooking classes, helping people to learn the skills they need to make those changes that we know will help people be successful in getting healthier or preventing or reversing chronic conditions," Lehman said, adding that enrollees in the program also receive training in how to better grocery shop to make healthier meal choices.
Many individuals develop patterns in their eating choices, but it's nothing that can't be changed for the better, according to Lehman.
"I don't think people are stuck in that," Lehman said. "If they have a desire to change and have the opportunity through programs like the weight management program here at the Sky Lakes Wellness Center, I think they have the opportunity to make changes in their habits."
Awareness and mindfulness in all life choices are key themes behind the programs, added Rutherford.
"It is important for me to look at the whole person. Mental health is a big part of that and trying to help people look at issues such as stress management, sleep, certainly depression, anxiety," Rutherford said.
"If we're paying attention, we can figure out what we need to do differently instead of just kind of drifting through with our old habits."
Pope emphasized there is a wide range of metrics in which staff view the success rate of the programs and their participants.
"It can be in pounds, it can also be in cholesterol and blood sugar," Pope said. "It can be in anxiety and depression scores, and so we try to measure all of those."
Those interested in learning more about enrolling in a wellness center program should contact the center at 541-274-2770 or visit the center at 128 S. 11th St., Klamath Falls. Learn more at the wellness center's website at liveyoung.skylakes.org.
About the center
Sky Lakes Wellness Center is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives. The Wellness Center is located at 128 S 11th St. in Klamath Falls. It can be reached at 541-274-2770.