Once again, I am reminded of how much we in Pacific County depend on our Chinook Observer for alerting and informing readers on local issues. For several weeks I have been closely following postings on recent personnel changes at Willapa Behavioral Health. My older daughter has a diagnosis of schizophrenia. She sees a counselor and a psychiatric nurse practitioner who oversees her medications. Until a few weeks ago she also was seen by Dr. Dave Cundiff who was a fairly recent addition to the WBH staff. He was brought on to help clients with any physical health problems, so the agency was able to offer complete medical and mental health coverage.
Over several months of appointments with Dr. Cundiff, my daughter and I realized how fortunate we were to have him as her “family doctor.” When she developed an angry red rash and extreme swelling on one leg which quickly spread to her other leg and then to her upper body, he managed to fit her into his busy schedule several times a week. These were not the 15-minute in-and-out appointments that are fairly common in many places. He took the time needed, consulted specialists, and after eliminating several possibilities, took action on the causative factor. Not once did he attempt to hurry my daughter but listened carefully to her and often responded with a smile and words that led her to tell me how much she liked Dr. Dave, especially because “he jokes with me.” This was high praise from a woman who often feels uneasy around people.
So it was with dismay that I listened to him tell us that we were having our last appointment on an August afternoon and he would not be available after another week. His calm professional manner seemed to suggest that he would not be offering any details and it was not until another staff member answered my questions, that I learned why he was terminated. His CEO was demanding that he cut his time with patients and Dr. Dave refused to do less than what he thought was best for the people under his care.
Since then I have not been able to find a new doctor for my daughter. It is difficult to locate a doctor or PA who has a background treating mental health patients. Since I attend most of my daughter’s appointments (she doesn’t drive) I have seen how unprepared most are, particularly in regard to needed medications. But it is not just pills. People with behavioral abnormalities can present puzzling and frustrating words and actions that can be difficult to interpret. Many medical professionals are so scheduled that they can’t, or won’t, take the time needed to understand those words or actions.
I understand that a PA has been found to take Dr. Cundiff’s place. There has been no information on his training or experience, not even an announcement of the departure of Dr. Cundiff and his replacement. Is it naïve of me to hope that the Willapa Board and new CEO will take another look at the situation and realize that Dr. David has the professional and personal qualities that are so difficult to find for the special needs of Willapa’s clients?
I encourage anyone who knows Dr. Cundiff as a former client, family or community member to contact the board and request further review with possibility of reinstatement. So far, my daughter and I have heard nothing from the board. I would hope we can expect a letter with information that would indicate they understand and support the need for transparency. I am enclosing the contact for those who wish to register their concern: call 360-642-3787, Willapa Behavioral Health, and ask for Denise in the Human Resources department of the Long Beach office.