Community Health Centers of the Central Coast Receives National Award for Supporting the Safety Net

June 24, 2022

The network of community health clinics was nominated by local health plan CenCal Health

ACAPCenCal Health, the Medi-Cal managed care plan for both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, announced that its provider partner Community Health Centers of the Central Coast (CHC) has received the 17th Annual Supporting the Safety Net Award from the Association for Community Affiliated Health Plans (ACAP). This prestigious national award honors a community organization or individual that exceeds expectations in implementing health programs to benefit underserved populations. ACAP member CenCal Health nominated CHC for this recognition due to CHC’s vital role in serving the vulnerable and disenfranchised on the Central Coast during the COVID-19 pandemic, most notably supporting Hispanic and Latinx/e workers employed in food production and agriculture.

Exporting to over 30 countries, and rendering more than $1.8 billion in production value, agriculture is one of the largest industries in Santa Barbara County, according to a 2020 agricultural report published by Santa Barbara County. Though designated as critical members of the workforce, being a farm laborer often comes at a dangerous price. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanic and Latinx/e workers employed in food production or agriculture have a substantially higher risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death compared to non-Hispanic workers in those industries.

Eager to provide local farmworkers resources that could potentially safeguard them and their families from infection, CHC’s Education and Outreach teams collaborated with numerous agricultural support organizations, including the Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation, Grower-Shipper Association of Santa Barbara County, Lideres Campesinas, farm labor contractors, and local growers. As a result of the cross-agency collaboration carried out in early 2020, farmworkers were afforded personalized support during 31 CHC visits to agriculture fields, and migrant and public housing sites throughout northern Santa Barbara County. The services included COVID-19 education in the farmworkers’ native languages; medical treatment; distribution of more than 5,350 free “COVID Care Kits”; and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), including over 20,000 face masks. Likely, the outreach also rendered a significant secondary effect – avoiding a serious disruption of the local food supply chain and potential food shortage crisis worldwide.

“As one of the largest Medi-Cal providers in our service area, CHC is integral to the success of our local safety net. CenCal Health was honored to nominate this outstanding organization,” said Marina Owen, CenCal Health CEO.

CHC was founded in 1978 with seven employees and one part-time volunteer doctor operating out of a converted bungalow in Nipomo, California. Over four decades later, the non-profit network of community health centers has strategically established sites in underserved neighborhoods expanding across San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties. Within its 31 state-licensed clinics, nearly 500,000 annual visits take place. Those primarily served include homeless individuals, public housing residents, school-based children, and migrant and seasonal farm workers. For patients, the clinics are a “one-stop” resource that address barriers to successful treatment by providing full scope services, including routine preventative care and beyond. Specialized medical personnel include OB/GYN physicians; behavioral health clinicians; pediatricians; internists; dentists; optometrists; chiropractors; registered dietitians; diabetes educators; and other ancillary staff. In its commitment to address accessibility barriers, CHC also runs the Community Health Outreach Program, which includes a fleet of state-of-the-art mobile medical and mobile dental units.

CHC Medical Director Steve Clarke, MD accepted the ACAP Supporting the Safety Net Award on June 23 at the ACAP CEO Summit in Washington, DC. “CHC was created to serve vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Clarke. “We treat more than 110,400 patients, 35% of which are low-income. Of the total patients, nearly 32% are children, 8% are homeless adults and 13% are uninsured. A significant portion of CHC’s patients identify as Hispanic/Latino, therefore 68% of our clinic employees are of Hispanic/Latino ethnicity. In addition, the majority of CHC’s medical assistants are bilingual, some are also trilingual, speaking English, Spanish, and Mixteco. On behalf of all of us at Community Health Centers, we humbly accept this award and are immensely grateful for the recognition.”

The Central Coast health clinic network also received a $1,000 donation from the host association. More information on Community Health Centers of the Central Coast can be found www.communityhealthcenters.org

About ACAP

ACAP represents 66 health plans which collectively provide health coverage to more than 20 million people in 29 states. Safety Net Health Plans serve their members through Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Marketplace and other publicly-sponsored health programs. For more information, visit www.communityplans.net.

About CenCal Health

CenCal Health is a community-accountable health plan that partners with over 1,500 local physicians, hospitals and other providers in delivering patient care to nearly 220,000 members – about one in four residents of Santa Barbara County and one in five residents of San Luis Obispo County. A public agency, the health plan contributes approximately $50 million a month into the local economy, primarily through payments to healthcare providers who serve its membership. Established in 1983, it is the oldest managed care Medicaid plan of its kind in the nation. View its annual Community Report at cencal2021.org

CenCal Health Contact:

Nicolette Worley Marselian (805) 685-9525 ext.1993 nworleymarselian@cencalhealth.org

Media Contact: Sheri Mobley (805) 845-5627, 213 509-9816 sheri@seamlesspr.com