I want to take a few minutes to talk about the effects of social isolation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and what our health system is doing about it.

At St. Charles, we believe this is a major health need in Central Oregon – a need that was identified and confirmed through our recently completed triennial Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) for the regions served by each of our four hospitals.

You can read more about the importance of this new priority if you’d like. To summarize, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – the social isolation, separation from loved ones and so on – has led to an increase in the number of people experiencing feelings of loneliness, depression and other associated health issues. Social isolation compounds other health challenges our communities are already facing.

Every three years, St. Charles conducts the CHNA, and the resulting report helps guide the selection of a priority for the program. Past priorities include prevention of suicide and prevention of alcohol misuse. With a new CHNA complete, we now have a new priority for the next three years: fostering a sense of belonging and reducing feelings of loneliness.

Why does that priority matter? Because all profits at St. Charles are reinvested in our communities, and the CHNA helps guide that reinvestment. We reinvest in a number of different ways, one of which is partnering with local groups on prevention and ensuring people in Central Oregon have access to core health care services when they need them most. Since its inception, St. Charles has been contributing to programs that benefit our community, and we prioritize those that are taking care of underserved, disadvantaged populations throughout the region.

With our CHNA complete, we will once again be partnering with like-minded local organizations, this time with a focus on social isolation and related issues and awarding grants to groups working to address them. Look for more information about those grants in the coming months.

We also have other Community Benefit grants available: One for those providing basic needs such as shelter, food or safety; sponsorships for community events and/or fundraisers; and small grants for those seeking $500 or less. You can learn more about these opportunities here.

When people think about St. Charles, most think about hospitals, clinics, doctors and nurses. And with good reason! Taking care of Central Oregonians is what we do here, every single day.

But there are many ways to take care of people that don’t involve visiting our facilities, and our Community Benefit programs are an important part of our efforts to create America’s healthiest community, together.