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Federal grant boosts college healthcare training

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The DALLES – Columbia Gorge Community College will receive $1.2 million in federal CARES Act Recovery funding to expand healthcare workforce training across the region. US Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced the award Tuesday.

“Healthcare workers are a critical force in our region and CGCC is fortunate to be part of the solution,” said Dr. Marta Yera Cronin, CGCC president. “These funds will allow us to increase our capacity to train more highly-qualified healthcare professionals to serve the Mid-Columbia.”

Dr. Cronin cited critical support from US Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden. “Sen. Merkley and Sen. Wyden recognize the incredible stress the COVID pandemic has placed on healthcare workers,” she noted. “Our Senators’ support was instrumental as we expand our ability to train the healthcare workers our region needs so desperately.”

The grant will enable the college to upgrade healthcare training equipment and facilities, explains Lorie Saito, Dean of Nursing and Healthcare Occupations at CGCC.

“We are excited about this grant,” Saito emphasized. “The grant will not only provide more graduates for the frontlines of rural healthcare. It will also give us the ability to update our current high-fidelity simulation lab to be a regional center. In addition to CGCC students, this center will allow our community partners to provide continuing education to their staff. The opportunities awarded with this grant would not be possible without our Columbia Gorge regional community partners. We sincerely thank them all.”

Funding will provide faculty support for the Medical Assisting program, allowing the college to increase class capacity to 24 students. This will help address an urgent need for medical assistants in the region.

The grant also supports the college’s plans to offer nursing students a part-time option, creating a three-year program in addition to the current two-year program. This will help students who are not able to commit to full-time studies.

Finally, the grant will jumpstart the college’s development of paramedic and EMT training.

The proposed paramedic degree will be a nine-month, hands-on, skills-based program providing students with the technical skills for emergency medical and trauma situations. The degree will prepare students for the Oregon State and National Registry of Paramedic exams.

Oregon Employment Department forecasts employment in emergency medical technicians and paramedics to expand six pecent annually statewide until 2029, and 14.5 percent for the East Cascade region. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics projects growth of EMT jobs at 12 percent through 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.

Of special concern in the Columbia Gorge region is the ever-increasing frequency of recreational accidents, as visitor numbers continue to escalate with the region’s popularity.

This EDA investment will be matched with $300,000 in local investment and is expected to create 21 jobs.

“Health care workers have been the cornerstone of our COVID-19 response over the last two years,” said Sen. Merkley. “I’m pleased this federal funding is headed to Columbia Gorge Community College to help bring new, dedicated individuals into this important work. This EDA grant will provide valuable workforce development programs, ensuring that new health care workers entering the profession are best prepared to keep the Mid-Columbia community safe and healthy.”

“I’ve heard from hardworking health care professionals all over Oregon how serious the need is for more colleagues to help care for Oregonians’ well-being in rural communities and statewide,” said Sen. Ron Wyden. “As our state works together to put this public health crisis in the rearview mirror, these federal funds provide crucial support to Columbia Gorge Community College to build out the healthcare workforce and provide career training for rural Oregonians wanting stable, good-paying and much-needed work opportunities.”

“The pandemic demonstrated the importance of having a sophisticated and well-trained healthcare workforce, and we remain tremendously grateful to our healthcare workers who were on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “President Biden recognizes this deeply and is dedicated to ensuring our healthcare workforce, and our nation as a whole, not only recovers from this pandemic, but builds back stronger. This EDA investment will help prepare Oregonians seeking new employment opportunities in the critical healthcare sector.”

“The Economic Development Administration is committed to helping communities across the nation implement strategies to mitigate economic hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “This EDA investment will support Columbia Gorge Community College’s renovation and outfitting of an existing facility to boost capacity to provide training opportunities for nursing, paramedic, EMT, and other health sciences students.”

This project is funded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act), which provided the US Economic Development Administration with $1.5 billion for economic assistance programs to communities. EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance provides a wide-range of financial assistance to eligible communities and regions as they respond to and recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

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