CenCal HEALTH - A Historical Perspective

Under the leadership of Dr. Lawrence Hart, the “Santa Barbara Health Initiative,” was brought to life in 1983 in Santa Barbara County. The Santa Barbara Health Initiative became our agency name, and has since evolved significantly (now CenCal Health), although our mission remains the same.  

CenCal Health is a publicly-funded health care program designed for the low income residents of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

We are a public entity that is governed by a 13 member Board of Directors appointed by the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County Boards of Supervisors. Our Board of Directors is comprised of local government representatives, physicians, hospital representatives, member representatives, other health care provider representatives, and business representatives. Although a public entity, we must operate like a business, managing funds as efficiently as possible in carrying out our mission.

For 33 years, we have created access to high quality health care for our members through contracts with local and dedicated providers.

What began as a small pilot program has grown into a community health plan with a service area of two counties (Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County) and over 175,000 members that we serve. The program that began here is now acknowledged to be the oldest Medicaid-only managed care program of its kind in the country. We take pride in knowing that we are a local solution to a national problem.  

Our main program is Medi-Cal, which is California’s version of Medicaid.

We also administer smaller programs such as the Healthy Kids program, serving low income children, and the AIM (Access to Infants and Mothers) program serving low income pregnant women. Eligibility for these programs is determined by income status. Medi-Cal members are automatically inscribed into our program through the State of CA, while Healthy Kids and AIM members must apply and qualify based on specific income levels.    

Once members are in our system, they are able to choose a Primary Care Physician which will serve as their “medical home.” We have a dedicated bi-cultural and bi-lingual Member Services Department that is able to assist with member questions, appointment scheduling, arranging non-emergency transportation if required, and a host of other items.

We truly care about the well-being of our members, many of them medically fragile.

20 yr