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Spokane County Commissioners choose naturopathic doctor to fill public health vacancy on Board of Health

Rebecca White/SPR

The Spokane County Commissioners have chosen the three new members to join the Spokane Regional Health Board.

The Board of Health oversees the Spokane Regional Health District and was previously made up of elected officials from the county, and its two largest cities, as well as a few community members.

A change in state law that goes into effect this year requires local health boards to have no more than half of their members be elected officials.

The Spokane County commissioners voted to make themselves and Millwood Mayor Kevin Freeman the only elected officials on the board in November, and chose three community members to join the board Tuesday.

The new community members were chosen from three state-mandated categories.

First, the state requires boards to have one medical provider, or person with public health experience on the board. Several doctors, nurses and public health experts applied. The county commissioners choose a Naturopathic Physician, Alycia Policani to fill that seat.

Policani operates a naturopathic practice in Spokane and said she had been a provider for more than 20 years.

Unlike medical doctors, they are not required to complete a supervised residency upon graduation.

In Washington state naturopathic doctors that have gone to accredited schools are considered licensed primary care providers.

Both Policani, and Jason Kinley, a naturopathic doctor who previously held a seat on the board, both hold such licenses.

Commissioner Al French says the health board can get advice from many medical professionals with traditional training who work at the health district. He wanted a viewpoint from alternative medicine and lived experience.

“I think the thing that tipped me over with Policani was the breadth of her experience with the health district already,” he said, “and seeing it not only from a medical professional standpoint, but also as a consumer."

During Policani’s interview, she said her family used the Woman, Infant and Children feeding program when she first moved to Spokane and was struggling to make ends meet. That program is one of several the Spokane Regional Health District oversees.

Policani was French and Commissioner Josh Kerns' top pick.

Commissioner Mary Kuney’s top pick was Dr. Monica Blykowski-May, the former medical director of CHAS, who currently works at the Spokane veteran’s hospital.

Blykowski-May was also one of Board Member Kevin Freeman’s top picks, along with Denise Smart, a retired career-military public health nurse and a researcher at the WSU College of Nursing.

The final decision however is made by Board of County Commissioners, two of which strongly support naturopathic candidates. After a discussion during their meeting Tuesday, both Freeman and Kuney agreed to support Policani.

For the consumer of public health position, the county commissioners chose Chris Patterson. Patterson previously worked in Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward’s administration as an advisor on homelessness. Prior to that, the Trump administration appointed him to be a regional administrator for the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He also founded a treatment facility for troubled youth.

For the community stakeholder position, the commissioners chose Charlie Duranona. He works as an outreach coordinator for the Mann Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, and previously worked on veterans’ issues in Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers office.

A total of 29 people applied for the three open positions. Commissioners plan to formally vote to appoint the new board members next week.

One additional member of the Board of Health will be chosen by the American Indian Health Commission. The law, and requirement for their inclusion, does not go into effect until July.

This story was corrected on February 2, 2022 to accurately reflect the scope of naturopathic medicine. Aromatherapy and acupuncture are not apart of core curriculum for naturopaths.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.