Rohnert Park Health Center opens doors, filling longtime gap in medical services

The new clinic brings much needed primary, dental and mental health care to a city some have called a 'medical desert' for uninsured or under-insured residents.|

Filling a longstanding gap in Rohnert Park‘s health care landscape, a new state-of-the-art community health center opened this week one floor above Kaiser Permanente’s medical office building on State Farm Drive.

Run by the Petaluma Health Center, the new 38,000-square-foot clinic brings much needed primary, dental and mental health care services to a city some have called a “medical desert” for uninsured or underinsured residents seeking primary health care.

In some ways, the new Rohnert Park Health Center offers more services than its Petaluma parent, including a 15-chair dental clinic, pediatric dentistry, gambling addiction counseling and optometry services.

“It’s really going to be the center for primary care in Rohnert Park,” said Pedro Toledo, chief administrative officer for the Petaluma Health Center.

Rohnert Park is the only big city in Sonoma County that does not have a major community health center.

Health centers in Sonoma County - such as the Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, the West County Health Centers and the Petaluma Health Center - have grown rapidly in recent years, bolstered by millions in federal dollars. Rohnert Park, however, seemed to always be left behind.

But Toledo said the area was prime for coverage through the Petaluma Health Center. About one-third of the patients at the Petaluma Health Center live in Rohnert Park. The new clinic will greatly relieve pressure at the Petaluma campus, which is already “bursting at the seams,” he said.

Since the health center will offer services not available in Petaluma, such as pediatric dentistry, the Rohnert Park facility will likely draw some patients north.

The dental clinic opened last Wednesday. The rest of the facility opened Sunday.

On Thursday afternoon, Mayra Hermosillo of Petaluma brought in her 7-year-old, Lucero Gutierrez, for a dental checkup and cleaning. Lucero sat in the clinic’s pediatric dental bay, where on the far wall a large mural displayed characters from the Disney movies “Frozen” and “The Jungle Book.”

“Wow, you have big molars,” said Ramona English, the dental director for the Petaluma Health Center, just before she counted Lucero’s teeth.

“You see how many you have? 22. That’s a lot to take care of,” English said.

English said the center’s pediatric dental clinic will help bridge the gap in care for some local children, especially those from low-income households.

“These are children who can’t access care in Santa Rosa,” she said. “They would have to travel to Oakland or San Francisco to get care.”

English helped design the health center’s dental clinic, which she said rivals private practice facilities. It has 15 dental chairs, including two “quiet rooms” for screaming children, five pediatric chairs and eight regular single-chair dental rooms.?The clinic, which cost about $200,000 per chair to build, also features a streamlined sterilization room, a large laboratory room and a special area that in a couple of years will house a dental residency program.

“It looks nice, but I know we can use it to deliver high quality care to our patients,” English said.

The health center’s other features include:

Laboratory services operated by Quest Diagnostics.

An exercise room with a capacity for 75 people.

A 14-room mental health clinic, including rooms for substance abuse and gambling addiction counseling.

The health center’s largest clinic is its 40-room primary care clinic, which will be staffed by two medical teams. Each team will have six doctors, 12 nurses, medical assistants and other support staff.

Don Schwartz, Rohnert Park’s assistant city manager, said the new health center has been sorely needed for a long time.

“We don’t have what most other cities have,” he said, adding that it’s unclear why Rohnert Park has missed out on the recent expansion of Sonoma County health centers.

“Maybe we’ve been seen as too close or close enough to Santa Rosa that there wasn’t the need,” he said.

He said that a recent health status report on Sonoma County showed that Rohnert Park “has some of the greatest needs in the county.”

“We’re thrilled that they’re here,” he said of the new health center.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or On Twitter @renofish.


Editor’s Note: The original version of this story incorrectly identified Rohnert Park as the only city in Sonoma County, with out a hospital. Windsor also has a medical center, but no hospital. Alliance Medical Center operates Windsor’s community health care clinic. This story has been altered to reflect this correction.

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