Redwood Community Health Coalition gets $500,000 state grant to help people get medical care

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Three North Bay health care organizations are using $600,000 in state grants to help underprivileged, and sometimes undocumented, residents in Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Yolo counties who typically steer clear of seeking medical treatment.

Redwood Community Health Coalition, based in Petaluma, received $500,000, while Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa and Santa Rosa Community Health Centers each have received $50,000.

Advocacy consultant Bethany Snyder said since 2014 the Redwood health group has focused a large portion of its efforts on narrowing health disparities for Spanish-speaking residents and those in the LGBTQ community.

“These are groups we have historically worked with for a while, but this grant is huge for us to get more specialists on the ground and out in the field working with people who may be wary of doctors,” Snyder said.

The Redwood coalition operates 71 health centers in the North Bay and serves more than 230,000 patients each year.

More than 100 groups in California received grants last month as part of an effort spearheaded by Covered California to provide medical coverage to people who have traditionally never had steady health insurance.

The program will be funded through 2022 and targets the most hard-to-reach populations.

Susan Garcia, community engagement supervisor with Santa Rosa Well-Being, said the divisive political climate has made it difficult to enroll patients in Medi-Cal.

Garcia is one of a handful of community health care workers who spend most of their time going to schools, neighborhood cookouts and public events to reach uninsured residents.

“A lot of people are afraid because many of them have immigration statuses that (don’t) make them legal here,” she said.

Because of this fear, Snyder said, many uninsured people will live with painful chronic health conditions or wait until they are too sick and wind up in emergency rooms, driving up hospital costs.

“This is why it is so important we have this grant, so we can put enrollment counselors out in communities to reach these folks,” she said.

Garcia told the story of a Santa Rosa woman who recently moved from Guatemala to Sonoma County and was using homemade remedies like garlic for months to treat her hypertension and diabetes, until it got so bad she nearly died.

Garcia and her team were able to connect her with a local health center that provided the woman with the medications and education classes she needed to treat her illnesses, she said.

“These opportunities are opening up for people that were not aware they existed,” Garcia said.

“They are a bridge between the community and the health world.”

You can reach Staff Writer Alexandria Bordas at 707-521-5337 or alexandria.bordas@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @CrossingBordas.

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