Medford family recognized by Governor Brown at inauguration

MEDFORD, Ore. — A Medford family was singled out for recognition and praise by Gov. Kate Brown as she was sworn in January 9 for her first elected term.

Kelleni Camacho and her son, Carlos, a 16 year-old South Medford High student, are among the 1,500 Jackson Care Connect members who have made positive, life-altering changes through the Coordinated Care Organization's partnership with the Rogue Valley and Ashland YMCAs.

The Camacho family has radically changed their family focus and health in the last two years through two very important programs offered by their OHP health plan. Through Jackson Care Connect-sponsored access to the YMCA and its wellness programs Kelleni and Carlos lost significant weight and increased their fitness, strength and nutrition – which improved many aspects of their lives overall.

According to Jackson Care Connect CEO Jennifer Lind, "Offering YMCA scholarships to members is part of Jackson Care Connect’s investment in preventive care and wellness programs to help members overcome health challenges and to stay healthy. We are happy Governor Brown supports our families and their efforts."

The Camacho's attended the inauguration and were special guests of the Governor following the ceremonies. Governor Brown seeks to advance her vision for full health insurance coverage for all of Oregon's children and noted the impact of improved health on academic achievement that Carlos' story demonstrates.

Mother Kelleni Rodriguez Camacho grew up in a family struggling with abuse and addiction, influencing her to make detrimental lifestyle choices. She credits her physician’s referral to Jackson Care Connect’s 12 Weeks to a Healthier New You program at Rogue Valley YMCA, with “transforming her life and the lives of her son, daughter and husband.”

Coordinated Care Organizations, such as Jackson Care Connect, are now allowed to use funds for flex-spending, enabling them to develop programs that address preventive efforts to improve or protect health. Using flex funds, Jackson Care Connect collaborates with YMCAs in its area to provide nutrition and fitness programs that address health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and more.

Before starting her program, Kellieni had reached 285 pounds – leading to other health problems including asthma, high blood pressure, heart failure, depression, nerve damage, and a total of 20 metabolic diseases. She, and her whole family were struggling with obesity and poor health.

All that changed as Kelleni worked to lose 115 pounds while her son and husband succeeded in losing nearly 40 pounds each. This became a family effort to bring health back into the family.

Carlos decided to join his mother as she began her work to improve her health. He visited the YMCA’s Jr. Wellness Program to kick-start his efforts and followed through with joining the Y for regular exercise through the Jackson Care Connect scholarship program.

“Growing up through elementary school, I was always that one chubby kid,” said Carlos. “And, you know, I wasn’t really eating right, because I would just have a bag of chips here, and eat them all in one sitting.”

Beginning with training in healthy eating, Carlos and his mother learned how to read food labels and recognize what was good for their body (and what wasn’t). They eliminated most carbohydrates and increased proteins and fresh vegetables. Their program included exercise programs that took into account their gradually improving health. The family even planted fresh vegetables in a container garden at their apartment.

According to Kelleni, the family made these life-style changes to stop the cycle of early deaths. The family had lost parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles young, in part, because of their lifestyle choices. Kelleni and Carlos didn’t want to face that same pain.

Through the Y membership, and his diligent workouts, Carlos also gained strength, and ultimately became a successful athlete. Because you need to do well in school to participate in his sport, he now focuses on being a successful student.

Carlos sees the connection between his health, his sport and his school success. “Our coach is really strict on grades. Like if you have any behavior issues or any tardies or absences, he won't let you practice. He will say, “Hey, fix this. You got to get it done.” And that’s just how it is. It makes me want to do better in school so I'm able to wrestle and to just go to practice and to do good.”

With help from Jackson Care Connect’s health and wellness programs, Kelleni and Carlos are stopping the cycle of poor health, depression and hopelessness that stems from a family history of trauma. The family’s recovery would not have been possible without health care coverage and without the ability of OHP to invest in grassroots programs that support health and prevention, beyond simple reactive medical care.

Here are Gov. Brown’s remarks:

Let me turn now from economic health to the physical health of Oregonians. We all know that good health is fundamental to the well being and self-sufficiency of every Oregonian.

"I am so proud to report that we have made great progress in the equitable delivery of health care. Over the past several years, Oregon has expanded health care to 95 percent of adults and 98 percent of children.

"These are numbers worth repeating! Here in Oregon, 95 percent of adults, and 98 percent of children now have access to healthcare.

"We should not and cannot stop until every Oregonian is covered. Health care is about more than just seeing a doctor. Every child in this state deserves the opportunity to be healthy and successful.

"One of the families who now has health care is the Camacho family in Medford. Kelleni Camacho grew up in a family that struggled with abuse and addiction, which influenced her to make lifestyle choices she knew were detrimental. She was referred to Jackson Care Connect, a Coordinated Care Organization. In their 12 week "Healthier New You" program, she was able to transform not just her life, but also the lives of her husband, son and daughter.

"Before starting the program, Kelleni was overweight and facing a host of related health problems. Her entire family, including her husband and her son also struggled with obesity.

"Once she had access to care, Kelleni took what she learned and taught her family to read nutrition labels, chose foods that were good for them, and begin to exercise more. They all each lost a significant amount of weight.

"Carlos, her son, was the self-described "chubby kid" who would think nothing of eating a bag of chips in one sitting. He began to exercise with his mom, and they even grew fresh vegetables in their apartment. Carlos gained strength, and eventually became a successful athlete, which, in turn, made him want to be a successful student. He says his wrestling coach is strict about grades, and won't let them practice if they have behavior issues or miss class.

"Carlos sums it up by saying that the program makes him want to, "do good."

"As impressive as Carlos' story is, we still have more work to do.

"We still have children and families in our state who do not have health insurance. And they don't have access to the services that transformed Carlos and his family's lives.

"As their story demonstrates, health care coverage is foundational to health and well-being.

"This is why I have proposed investing additional funds to expand health insurance coverage to all children in Oregon. With this, we can provide the opportunity for good health to every single Oregon child, and ensure every child is able to reach their full potential."

For information on this story, contact Julie Raefield, Communications Consultant, 1-541-380-1154 or [email protected].

For information on Jackson Care Connect or CareOregon, contact Jeanie Lunsford, Senior Communications Manager, 1-503-416-3626 or [email protected].

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About Jackson Care Connect

Jackson Care Connect serves the people of Jackson County as an Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) Coordinated Care Organization. We bring physical, behavioral and oral health care together, to make it easier for members to get the care they need. Our mission is to help members of our community prevent illness and respond effectively to health issues. We partner with other organizations to explore innovative projects that promote a healthy Jackson County. We partner with clinical and community organizations to connect members with appropriate whole person care.

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