It’s National Health Center Week. The following op-ed was published by the Marin Independent Journal in the August, 5, 2023 edition.
Leigha Andrews, MBA, Interim CEO of Marin Community Clinics
Kathie Powell, MA, MSHA, CEO of Petaluma Health Center
National Health Center Week (August 6 – 12) is a time to celebrate and recognize the work of the community health centers that serve more than 30 million people across the country. Nonprofit health centers, and specifically, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) – those providing comprehensive health services to lower income and traditionally underserved populations – lift up the individuals and families that depend on us for affordable and high-quality health care. In Marin County, FQHCs such as Marin Community Clinics, Petaluma Health Center, Ritter Center, and Marin City Health and Wellness Center serve as pillars of our public health system. Each organization offers a holistic care model that is reducing health disparities within our community.
Our services are expansive, and are directly tailored to Marin’s needs. Collectively, we provide primary and preventative medical care, behavioral health care, dental services, housing support, and social services to individuals and families who would otherwise be unable to afford or access such services. Importantly, our FQHCs innovate to address the underlying factors that contribute to poor health: poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, language barriers, food insecurity, and more. Our work requires meaningful collaboration with local and state governments, schools, hospitals, and community based organizations.
National Health Center Week isn’t solely a celebration of our impact. It’s about celebrating our entire support system. Fortunately, here in Marin, we have a strong one: our staff and clinicians, the patients and clients we serve, volunteers, local elected officials, philanthropic organizations and foundations, private donors, and community partners. This week, we are celebrating all of you as well – our active and engaged community willing to support our work and improve the overall health of our community. Below is some of the work our organizations are engaged in now:
- Marin Community Clinics (MCC) makes health care accessible – for anyone. MCC is currently expanding its 411 4th Street Dental Complex in San Rafael, allowing for increased oral health care capacity for patients. Expanding access to dental care is a priority as local options remain few for dental providers that both accept MediCal and new patients. With clinic sites in San Rafael, Novato, Greenbrae, and Larkspur – MCC remains committed to promoting overall health and wellness for its nearly 40,000 patients per year throughout Marin County. MCC continues to offer COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, and flu shots, and encourage anyone that needs one to make an appointment.
- Petaluma Health Center is committed to addressing health workforce shortages in rural West Marin by developing on-the-job training programs to grow the next generation of medical, dental, mental and behavioral health clinicians and clinical support staff, particularly for historically marginalized and excluded communities. Achieving health equity requires meaningfully expanding the circle of opportunity for BIPOC and rural communities.
- Ritter Center prevents and resolves homelessness by providing high-quality medical and mental health care, housing and social support services, and food to people living in poverty in Marin. They serve over 2,700 people annually, providing over 29,900 client health and case management visits and supplying nutritious food to 350 families weekly via their food pantry. Working collaboratively with county agencies and health partners, they have housed over 600 people since 2017. Ritter Center’s seasonal programs include its Back-to-School Backpack Program – which aims to provide 170 kids in Marin with backpacks, clothing, and supplies
It is important to remember that our work does not stop, and our services are offered year-round. National Health Center Week is also a great time to remind everyone that you, too, can get involved:
- Learn more about us and how you can support our work (marinclinic.org; phealthcenter.org; rittercenter.org; marincityclinic.org);
- Sign up to volunteer or check out partnership opportunities;
- If you have the means, consider donating (even small donations help!);
- Subscribe to our respective newsletters and like/follow us on social media;
- Or, share this piece with someone
Looking beyond this next week, let’s continue to carry this spirit of appreciation and support! Together, we are leveling the playing field for our more vulnerable neighbors and creating a healthier Marin.