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WWGH Provides Free Tattoo Removal for Youth in Walla Walla


Walla Walla General Hospital announces a new community-supported program designed to help youth in the Walla Walla Valley make positive life style changes thanks to the free removal of visible gang and drug related tattoos.

Youth who want to change their appearance and lifestyle are often hampered by visible tattoos from their past choices. The INK-OUT Tattoo Removal Project provides a gateway to employment, increased self-esteem and improved social mobility through the latest in laser technology. Criteria for qualifying for the program include being enrolled in school or employed, performing volunteer hours before and throughout the removal process, and having a mentor/advocate.

The INK-OUT project is based on a recommendation from the Community Council—a group of leaders who come together to study and make recommendations to enhance the quality of life for people living in the Walla Walla area. Startup for the INK-OUT Project was provided by generous donations from The Sherwood Trust and the Blue Mountain Community Foundation First Fruits Fund.

When applying for the grant, it became evident from comments made by law enforcement, court services staff and school district officials that removing visible tattoos was at times the last and most difficult step in making a positive life style change, according to project leader Sergio Hernandez, who has been facilitating the project.

 “Everyone deserves a chance to have a new start. I believe this service will enable some young people to overcome the effects of past choices which do not reflect where they want their lives to go now,” says Robert Betz, MD, and an Adventist Health physician who is donating his services to the program. “I’m glad to play a part in helping them change directions.”

The laser machine is located in the Surgical Specialists office on the WWGH campus. Laser tattoo removal works through an intense beam of light that pulses harmlessly through the top layers of skin. This laser energy breaks up the tattoo pigment into smaller particles, which are then removed by the body’s immune system. It takes many sessions over several months to complete the tattoo removal process.

Thanks to the donated physician services and other community support, laser tattoo removal treatments are provided free of charge for eligible youth 21 years of age and younger. For adults over 21 a nominal charge will be made on a case by case basis. Applications and full criteria eligibility for INK-OUT are available at The Health Center at Lincoln or by calling (509)-525-0704. For more information about INK-OUT contact Sergio Hernandez at 509-389-3940 or Holly Howard at (509)-525-5661.