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Out in the Cold

Must-know resources for winter health & safety

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Praying for snow or worrying about your New Year's diet is all unicorns and rainbows—until you consider that some high desert households are dealing with other extreme adulting needs this season. Think Maslow's Hierarchy. From paying the bills and managing mental well-being to dealing with inclement weather, present societal circumstances—and the usual seasonal affective disorder—are making things extra tough this year. In honor of our Winter Health issue, here's a list of resources to help keep people in defrost mode.

Assistance is out there to help you avoid winter driving drama and other potential problems. - K.M. COLLINS
  • K.M. Collins
  • Assistance is out there to help you avoid winter driving drama and other potential problems.

Energy Assistance

NeighborImpact shepherds the Energy Assistance Program. For those having difficulty paying for electricity, natural gas, propane, oil, wood or pellets, this program can help. Requirements are found on NeighborImpact's "Get Help" page at neighborimpact.org/get-help.

Rent Assistance/Housing Help

For foreclosure prevention, COVID mortgage & rent assistance, coaching on homebuying and emergency shelter, NeighborImpact is also the go-to resource. Other options for those experiencing homelessness are Grandma's House, a shelter for pregnant and parenting young mothers, and The Bethlehem Inn, a safe place for adults and children to stay.

Mental Health

Feeling down? Anxious? Out of sorts? Deschutes County Behavioral Health can help. Another option, from the comfort of home via Zoom, is to reach out to the counselors in training at the Oregon State University-Cascades Campus Counseling Clinic. It's free, timely and participation helps students complete their practicum. The Center for Compassionate Living is a third option, where staff members teach non-violent communication and offer classes such as Changing Self Talk into Self Care, Citizen Empathy and Conversation, Communicating for Life and Can we Talk—A Class for Couples.

Health Care 

For those who've been laid off from a job which previously provided health care, there are several options. Some will qualify for Oregon Health Plan, but if not, the federal government's Health Insurance Marketplace has plans offered at a reduced rate based on income. Open enrollment has passed for the current year, but those who have altered "life events," such as a layoff, may still be able to enroll. For children, check out the Oregon State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Formerly known as food stamps, SNAP provides nutritional assistance benefits to children and families, the elderly, the disabled, unemployed and working families. The program is meant to help supplement food budgets for families with low income, maintain good health and allow them to spend more of their money on other essential living expenses. The Oregon Department of Human Services determines the eligibility of applicants based on guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The primary goals of the program are to alleviate hunger and malnutrition and to improve nutrition and health in eligible households. Other food resources include Bend/La Pine Schools' grab-and-go meals and free/reduced cost meals, available to children age 0 to 18, Monday to Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at various school locations in the district.

Unemployment

From extended benefits to federal aid, all manner of help is available. Although benefits are available, many have had difficulty getting a hold of those who facilitate access. Two tips that may help: First, try faxing the unemployment office in Salem over calling a local office. Second, if faxing doesn't work, contact your state representatives and senators. It's worked for others in the community.

Driving 

For tips on driving in all conditions and outfitting your vehicle, Les Schwab Tires has hoards of information on its website. In the event an accident does occur, or to check road conditions, the Oregon Department of Transportation has a wealth of information. Trip Check 24/7 road conditions and winter travel information are other links jam packed with helpful information.

Here's to hoping we can all stay warm and show each other compassion to get through the remainder of winter. Best of luck crossing the passes and driving into the mountains—may the force be with you.

About The Author

K.M. Collins

A native Oregonian, K.M. Collins is a geologist-gone-writer. Covering everything outdoors and a spectrum of journalism, she's a jack of all whitewater sports and her favorite beat is anything river related. Don't blow her cover as a freshwater mermaid amongst humans.

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