Tobacco specialist comes to Hood River, Wasco counties

Thanks to a grant awarded by PacificSource Columbia Gorge Coordinated Care Organization, and the combined efforts of Hood River County Prevention, North Central Public Health District and the Hood River County Health Department, Hood River and Wasco counties now have a tobacco cessation specialist.

Kirah Doerr began work as a tobacco cessation specialist, funded by the grant, on Feb. 13. The grant provides free tobacco treatment support services to those accessing healthcare in both counties and covers her contract for one year.


Kirah Doerr

The grant, said Belinda Ballah, Hood River County prevention director, was awarded “to build a system to address tobacco use and implement a cessation program in Hood River and Wasco counties by January 2019. This will be done in collaboration with our existing coalition of tobacco prevention teams, local providers and community responders.

“The outcome after the first year is to not see an increase in tobacco use in the CCO data,” she said.

One objective was to set up a referral system for providers, Doerr said, to provide such services as counseling, creating “quit plans” and connecting with additional resources, all at no cost to the recipient.

“I like to refer to the program as a ‘local quit-line’ in addition to providing services to tobacco users,” Doerr said. “I have been working on coaching community members on how to best address tobacco use. One of the goals is to support tobacco users who are ready to quit.”

There are different ways to do this: By getting local organizations to refer tobacco users to a treatment program, and/or helping organizations enhance their own tobacco support services offered to patients.

“Once this referral pathway has been set up, I can reach out to determine individual needs,” Doerr said. “… The need is out there, with over 68 percent of tobacco users wanting to quit, and 100 percent have the right to quit. It can take several times to quit, but each attempt is practice for the final attempt.”

She has reached out to tobacco treatment specialists in other Oregon counties to see what has worked there. Each is slightly different due to funding streams and priorities, she noted, but her findings have helped to influence the Hood River and Wasco country programs “to be flexible in applying different resources to individual needs.”

In October, she plans to release a survey to tobacco users in the Gorge in order to receive input on the program’s future development. The survey will be available at

Doerr graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in public health, with a focus on health promotion and behavior.

“I wanted to find a position utilizing my education,” she said. “I was drawn to tobacco cessation in particular because of the range of disparities — unequal distribution — in regard to populations that are affected by tobacco use and Big Tobacco advertisement. In addition to the fact that tobacco use is the leading cost of preventable death, tobacco costs Oregon annually 8,000 lives and over $2.5 billion in medical expenses (as well as) lost productivity and early death. A tobacco cessation specialist is a crucial member of the healthcare team in guiding tobacco users to live longer, healthier lives, and I wanted to be on the team.”

Those interested in quitting or talking about quitting tobacco use, or organizations that would like to have access to this free service, should call Doerr at 541-993-2210 or email

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