toggle mobile menu Menu
toggle search menu

Site Navigation



Blog Post

St. Luke’s Blogs

Better Together

Working with community partners to improve health.

St. Luke's assists creation of upcoming Center for Community Health in Twin Falls

By Chris Langrill, News and Community
March 5, 2024

Maria Contreras has worked in the health care industry and social work in the Twin Falls area for nearly 15 years.

During that time, she’s seen people struggle to find the health care services they need.

“The Twin Falls area has been growing so fast we can’t keep up with the resources we already have in place,” Contreras said.

That’s why she’s so pleased that several organizations in the Magic Valley have teamed up to create the Center for Community Health.

“I’ve seen for quite some time now the need for a central hub for resources,” said Contreras, who was hired in July to serves as the center’s director. “The ultimate goal of the center is to have a clearinghouse of resources available to our community members without having to go to multiple places to get those services.”

Maria Contreras

Kyli Gough is the St. Luke’s community health and engagement director in the Magic Valley. When she came into her role about four years ago, St. Luke’s was conducting a healthy conditions assessment for the Twin Falls area. It helped to identify some of the area’s most pressing needs.

“The assessment kind of gave us a tale of the haves and have-nots,” Gough said. “After the assessment was completed, we really brought a bunch of our partners together. We didn’t want it to be something that just sat on a shelf. We wanted it to be something that we could use to come together and discuss what we could do to address those needs.”

Chief among those needs was mental health services — Jerome County has 38 mental health providers per 100,000 people, compared to Twin Falls County's 387, though that number likely serves not just people in that county, but those around it. Those counties also have 40.5 and 70.4 primary care physicians, respectively, per 100,000 people, both below the national average of 89.1.

In addition to St. Luke’s, the city and county of Twin Falls, the Twin Falls School District, College of Southern Idaho, South-Central Public Health District, Family Health Services and Strategic Financial Group were part of those discussions that led to the development of the Center for Community Health.

‘We had eight different organizations come together to bring this center to fruition, and St. Luke’s is one of the main players,” Contreras said. “They’re providing salary support and Kyli is driving this program along with me to get it going. … St. Luke’s is putting a lot of resources into this center. They’re the experts in this, so I’m very thankful for that.”

St. Luke’s stated mission is to improve the health in the communities it serves.

Gough said the efforts behind the Center for Community Health are perfect examples of fulfilling that mission. In order for the people of Twin Falls to take advantage of the resources available to them they need to be able to access them. And that’s not always easy.

“Ultimately, that’s where the idea for the Center for Community Health came from,” Gough said. “There’s a lot of bureaucracy in some of the programs, and it can be confusing — and that’s for people who are in it every day. We realized that we have tons of awesome resources, but there are a lot of barriers to accessing them, so we’ll be able to kind of help navigate people to them.”

The center is expected to open this summer. It’s been a massive undertaking to bring it to fruition, but Gough and Contreras haven’t had to go it alone. The Twin Falls center won’t be an exact duplicate of the St. Luke’s Center for Community Health in Hailey, but the similarities are such that leaders from the Wood River area have been able to share their expertise.

“They’ve been a huge partner for us through this whole experience, and they’ve been kind of sharing what they do, the pros and cons,” Gough said.

Goals of the center aim to enhance access to services, reduce health disparities, assist in informed decision-making, increasing utilization of services and to improve quality of life. As for the leadership in Twin Falls, Gough knows the center is in good hands with Contreras at the helm.

“We got a gem” Gough said. “You talk about someone who has done this work and knows it, who is a social worker by trade … and who is bilingual and leads with her heart. I don’t think you can do better than that.”

About The Author

Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.