Each August, we acknowledge National Health Center Week to raise awareness about the essential contribution that community health centers make to the wellbeing of our communities. Nationwide, CHC’s provide care for 28 million Americans every year—10 percent of our nation’s population.
Through the Alliance for Rural Community Health (ARCH), Mendocino County community health centers work together to strategize how we can meet the health needs of our region most effectively. In 2018, we provided care for more than half of all the people who live in Mendocino County.
ARCH health centers have been serving our communities for decades, offering everything from preventive and wellness services to opioid treatment, dentistry, behavioral health and obstetric/gynecological care. ARCH members are also fully integrated within the local system of care, working with hospitals and an extensive network of community partners. Together, we tackle bigger, regional health problems to ensure that local people can be supported to enhance their economic stability, access to housing, and adequate nutrition—key components of health.
What is a CHC?
There are different types of community health centers: federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and rural health clinics (RHCs). Both are dedicated to making sure that the people living in underserved areas have access to healthcare. Once the federal government awards the FQHC designation to a community health center, that center must be governed by a board of directors that is drawn from their patient population and their local community. If your community is served by an FQHC, you may have a neighbor or colleague who serves on its board. Like FQHCs nationwide, ARCH health centers have no religious or political affiliation. RHCs are slightly different and they can be physician-owned and operated privately. Both FQHCs and RHCs must provide primary care services to all members of their communities.
Community health centers focus on the whole person because we understand that people’s physical health is affected by their emotional health, their sense of security and their ability to meet their basic needs and those of their families. To provide this care effectively, FQHCs use a team-based approach to care. Our patients stand at the center of their team. Surrounding each patient are doctors, advance-practice providers, nurses, health educators, nutritionists, case managers, financial counselors, and others who can support them. We work with patients to create a healthcare plan that fits their needs and lifestyles. Health education is a crucial part of our process because the more you know, the more likely it is that you will be able to improve your health.
You may think this whole-person approach would be more expensive, but it isn’t. Community health centers use a cost-effective model to significantly improve the health of local people, because we address medical problems before they become emergencies. Prevention and health education help prevent unnecessary visits to the emergency room, and that’s good for everyone’s health and their pocketbook.
You Can Access Care
ARCH health centers operate throughout our region and provide health services to almost 60 percent of Mendocino County residents. FQHCs include Mendocino Coast Clinics in Fort Bragg, Anderson Valley Health Center in Boonville, Long Valley Health Center in Laytonville, Redwood Coast Medical Services on the South Coast and at one of the four centers operated by MCHC Health Centers: Hillside Health Center and Dora Street Health Center in Ukiah, Little Lake Health Center in Willits, and Lakeview Health Center in Lakeport. Baechtel Creek Medical Clinic in Willits is an RHC.
If you’re looking for high quality healthcare, consider becoming a patient at your local community health center. We look forward to helping you live a long and healthy life.
Carole Press is the CEO at MCHC Health Centers—a local, non-profit, federally qualified health center offering medical, dental and behavioral healthcare to people in Lake and Mendocino Counties.