The Sonoma Valley Community Health Center needs to raise a lot of money in less than two months to build a new clinic to meet health care demands brought on by growing local need and full implementation of Obama-care next year.

Two weeks ago, the health center entered into a purchase agreement to buy 19270 Sonoma Highway, an 18,000-square-foot commercial structure directly across from the Maxwell Village shopping center. The sale price is $5.4 million, and the health center has until Sept. 20 to raise $500,000 to close escrow on the property.

The project would greatly expand medical services beyond those provided at the health center's existing 8,000-square-foot clinic at 430 W. Napa St. New services would include much-needed exam rooms for specialty services and a six-chair dental clinic.

"As soon as we turn on dental, we expect a large influx of patients," Marc Schwager a member of the Sonoma Valley Health Center board of directors. "There are no dedicated Medi-Cal dental services in Sonoma Valley."

Last spring, the clinic, which is a federally qualified health center, was awarded a $5 million grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to construct the clinic. As a federally qualified health center, the clinic receives a beefed-up reimbursement from Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program.

The total cost of the project is expected to be $12 million, with about $1 million going to cover fees, permits, financing charges and closing costs.

But Schwager said the health center has to buy the property first, and the clock is ticking.

"Five hundred thousand leverages $5 million in federal grants and $5 million in financing," Schwager said. "There are very few things you can do in Sonoma Valley that materially improve the lives of 7,000 people."

That's the number of patients who currently receive care at the existing facility on West Napa Street. The health center logs 30,000 annual visits.

But in two years, the health center's patient load is expected to increase to 10,000 individuals and 45,000 annual visits.

Much of that growth is expected to come from a significant expansion in the Medi-Cal program under President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The new health care law is relying on centers throughout the country to provide primary care for many of the newly insured.

Sonoma Valley Community Health Center's $5 million HRSA grant is the latest in a string of multimillion-dollar grants from the federal government aimed at expanding and improving local clinics.

"It's a national movement. This is where health care is going," said Susan Drake, the health center's board chairwoman.

Drake said the clinic would feature other new services, including a laboratory for phlebotomy and pharmacy and conference rooms that can be used by the community. It also will allow the clinic to recruit more doctors to the valley.

She said the health center will provide enviable medical services to an underserved community, just as the new Petaluma Health Center has done in recent years.

"I think we will have a new branding," Drake said.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or

For more information on how to get involved or contribute to the project, contact Debbie Mason at 707-473-0583, Redwood Empire Chapter of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists resources can be found here or at


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