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This post was written in part by Lopez Island Resource Center Staff, originally published in an organizational update.

One of North Sound ACH’s partners, Lopez Island Family Resource Center (LIFRC), is working with other community partners, to launch an innovative prevention and wellness initiative.  This work is part of their commitment to the Medicaid Transformation Project.

From LIFC’s website:

Given the complexity of our island’s health issues and the unique challenges of being in a rural community, we are implementing a multifaceted four-part approach that challenges conventional thinking in several ways: tackle biases and systemic racism community-wide rather than one individual or organization at a time; use brain research to shift from “top-down” approaches that help people think differently to “bottom-up” approaches that help people cope with their raw emotions; and, use experiential learning and social connections to bring diverse people to build healthier lifestyles.

The program LIFC has decided to adopt is part of Open Source Wellness (OSW), an organization based in the Bay Area with the motto, “Community IS medicine.” Their model creates a community support for those working toward better health through behavioral changes: Leveraging the power of community to transform health outcomes and healthcare: Preventing and reversing chronic disease through a clinically-proven, low-cost, long-lasting behavior change program.

From Open Source Wellness:

For individuals and families who need it most, who struggle with poverty, unsafe environments, and upstream drivers of chronic disease, – there is no affordable, accessible, and culturally relevant delivery system for the behavioral medicine that they need, and as an entire society we pay the price.

Open Source Wellness was designed to fill the gaping hole between a doctor’s “behavioral prescription” and the actual experiential fulfillment of that prescription. We are happy when we see people moving their bodies together, eating well together, leaning together, managing stress together, – and developing the skill, power, and agency within their communities to collectively generate health and wellbeing.

LIFRC hired several individuals last Fall to create a coaching team for their organization and community.  The team spent a week of training in Oakland, learning how to implement the program.  Soon after, Open Source Wellness founders came to Lopez Island to host a demonstration event with the LIFRC team. Over 80 people of all ages attended: clients, Latino moms, seniors, kids, EMTs, Hospital District Commissioners, clinic staff, and community members joined together for two hours of learning. Everyone got to experience OSW first hand: dance exercise, stress reduction, group and partner discussion about personal health and wellness goals.

“The goal of OSW is moving from exclusion to inclusion that leads to well-being.  Many people who joined noted they were lonely and looking for connections in their lives,” shared LIFRC’s Executive Director Barbara Schultheiss.

The program launched in January with 22 participants; a new group will start every 16 weeks.  With this train-the-trainer model, graduates will serve as peer leaders for future groups.  LIFRC is researching becoming a Health Care Authority licensed mental health agency for peer support only, which would help support the program long term. 

Schultheiss shared that this model is in line with LIFRC’s vision. “Peer leaders are a part of our equity goals of sharing power and having people with lived experience shape solutions in our community,” she shared.

Learn more about the LIFC coaching team here.

For more information on Open Source Wellness’ model, click here or visit their website.