In the Media
March 15, 2019 – in Press Democrat by Alexandria BordasNow that the floodwaters have receded, a new challenge faces one of the largest providers of health care services along the Russian River.
West County Health Centers, which operates clinics in Guerneville, Occidental, Sebastopol and Forestville, is helping its patients recover from the physical and mental toll left by the region’s worst flood in two decades. The clinic in Guerneville suffered $200,000 in missed appointments, a damaged furnace and cleanup costs, said Jennifer Neeley, associate director of development for West County Health Centers. The nonprofit has been operating in the county for over 40 years, offering services to everyone regardless of medical coverage. Although the clinic was without power for several days during the storm, it has since reopened and is seeing patients, Neeley said.
“People have been really responsive to our efforts to keep supporting flood victims and our cleanup efforts,” she said.
March 5, 2019 – in Press Democrat by Julie JohnsonGUERNEVILLE — Parting her patient’s blonde hair in an exam room Tuesday, Dr. DeEtte DeVille took a closer look at a bruise incurred when Colette Bias tripped and fell into waist-deep water during last week’s flood, hitting her head on a tree branch.
“I don’t see any broken skin, did you notice blood?” asked DeVille, medical director of Russian River Health Center in Guerneville.
“No, just a really bad headache,” said Bias, 50, of Monte Rio, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.
DeVille ordered medications for Bias to pick up at the pharmacy — she’d lost a bag with some belongings when she fell — including an ointment for a rash she’d developed on her face and legs.
When the Russian River flooded its banks last week, its fast-moving murky waters created a potential health hazard for people trying to get out of the area or, like Bias, seek supplies such as fuel and food. The floodwaters receded Friday after thoroughly tossing the contents of thousands of garages, RVs, vehicles, businesses and homes in the towns along the river, and leaving behind a mixture of sewage, gasoline, chemicals and mud.
Most just call it the “flood crud.”
March 1, 2019 – in Press Democrat by Julie Johnson
November 28, 2018 – in Sonoma West by E.I. Hillin
On a typical workday in Guerneville, family doctor Jared Garrison-Jakel attends to patients who are often dealing with more than just an ailment medicine can cure. His patients at the Russian River Health Center include those who do not have a permanent home, are struggling with substance abuse or living with some other mental health disorder — all of which make scheduling a doctor’s appointment a difficult or even impossible task.
“If you don’t know where you are sleeping tonight, making an appointment two or three weeks in advance doesn’t work,” he said. “We need immediacy.”
With this challenge in mind, Garrison-Jakel, of Forestville, implemented a new model for West County Health Centers (WCHC) to see un-housed patients on the same day they schedule the appointment. The new system has proven to be a success, serving on average five un-housed patients a day.
“It’s always been my goal as a family doctor to meet the needs of the community,” Garrison-Jakel said.
December 29, 2017 – in Press Democrat - Rebuild North Bay Special Section by Marian Pena, LCSW, WCHC Director of Behavioral Health Services
Resiliency is defined as the ability to overcome and bounce back from challenges of all kinds- traumatic events, tragedy, loss, personal crises and regular life problems.
The October North Bay fires and their aftermath present many challenges to the residents of Sonoma County, including how to be resilient in the face of so much widespread devastation.
December 16, 2017 – in San Francisco Chronicle by Lizzie Johnson
Private health networks, like West County Health Centers, have also seen an increase in cases of depression and anxiety and other chronic illnesses, officials said. The issues have been exacerbated by how far from normal many victims lives have veered. Many have seen their churches, jobs, and children's school - thier daily rhythms - disrupted.
"People are more susceptible to trauma because they don't have their normal community support," said Jason Dunningham, medical director of West County Health Centers, which provides services from several locations. "Initially we had this community coming together, and it was actually life-giving. They were supporting one another. We aren't putting the same attention on those feelings as we did the first two weeks."
Cunningham said his staff compared state maps of fire damage to maps of where existing patients live, in order to locate high-risk victims who might need extra support. Health workers called those people in the weeks after the fires to check in and offer resources, everything from help with FEMA applications to therapy referrals.
"We know these people," Cunningham said. "We want to hear how they're doing and hear their story. It's a familiar voice to connect with. That social support is important so they don't try to self-medicate with things like alcohol."
October 27, 2017 – in Los Angeles Times by Sonali Kohli
It’s important to check in with kids even if they’re not asking questions, said Marian Pena, the behavioral health director at West County Health Centers in Sonoma County, where recent fires destroyed thousands of homes and killed more than 20 people. Some children will develop anxiety because they’re stressed and don’t have an outlet for that stress.
“A lot of parents feel like if they don’t ever talk to their kids about this, it’s out of sight out of mind,” she said.
But that’s not true. Children are thinking about what’s happening around them, whether or not they ask their parents about it. And it’s important for parents to provide the most accurate information, and reassure children that they are safe.
October 18, 2017 – in Los Angeles Times by Soumya Karlamangla
The aftermath of the fire presented countless challenges for the rest of the healthcare system.
Many residents struggled to breathe because of the smoky air. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated into schools and fairgrounds across the region.
“Each shelter had to figure out how do you manage these almost MASH-unit trauma centers,” said Jason Cunningham, chief medical officer for the West County Health Centers.
September 14, 2017 – in KRCB by Roland Jacopetti
Mary Szecsey Cheif Executive Officer for West County Health Centers, talks with Roland Jacopetti on KRCB's Sonoma Spotlight about the Capital Campaign to rebuild the new Russian River Health & Wellness Center.
August 22, 2017 – in North Bay Business Journal by Cynthia Sweeney
West County Health Centers (WCHC) has raised $1.84 million towards a goal of $4.2 million for a new Russian River Health Center.