The Public’s Health Community Clinics
Monterey County Health Clinics Deliver Personal Care with Health Care.
Koren Blau-Monroe says she doesn’t know where she and her family would receive health care if not for the Monterey County Health Department Clinics. Blau-Monroe, a Salinas resident, is disabled. She and her family receive Medi-Cal benefits. Her husband is deaf and her 15-year-old daughter — a high school student and competitive barrel racer — has asthma and valley fever, a fungal infection she was diagnosed with about seven years ago, caused by fungi found in soil that can be breathed into the lungs.
In addition to her pediatrician, she sees a pulmonary specialist from Stanford Children’s Hospital every three months at the Laurel Pediatric Clinic in Salinas. “Everyone at the clinics are very straight forward,” Blau-Monroe says. “They speak a language we can understand instead of technical terms. They help us understand our illnesses, our medical needs.” Blau-Monroe sits on the Community Health Center Board — the clinics’ governing body made up of patients and community representatives.
The federal government requires that 66.6 percent of federally qualified health centers’ (FQHCs) board members be patients. Blau-Monroe says being a patient and a board member gives her a special insight into the clinics’ missions. She says their services are vital to her family’s health. As a board member she works to spread the word to other Monterey County residents — of which 130,000 are on Medi-Cal and another 30,000 to 50,000 are uninsured, mostly undocumented. “Being on the board empowers me to help others,” she says. “I’m able to give them information about the clinics and say ‘hey, you need to take care of your health.’ and they can relate to me as a regular person.”
Monterey County’s clinics, which received over 170,000 patient visits during Fiscal Year 2014-2015, are among the 1,200 FQHCs across the US delivering medical care to 22 million people annually in medically underserved areas. For about 50 years this network of nonprofit health centers has delivered primary and preventative care, as well as dental, mental health and substance abuse services to patients across the US regardless of their ability to pay. Because they provide health care to anyone, the clinics also receive higher Medicare/ Medi-Cal reimbursement rates from the feds.“
The clinics are here to maintain the health of all the residents of Monterey County,” says Clinic Services Bureau Director Julie Edgcomb, who oversees the county clinics. “About onethird of Monterey County residents are on Medi-Cal and they are a critical part of our population. These are hardworking people. If they are not well, the health of the community suffers.” FQHCs save taxpayers billions of dollars because their cost of care is so low. This means fewer sick patients end up in the emergency rooms or needing more expensive specialty care. “If people don’t receive primary care, then they are only going to get care in the hospital because they are extremely ill, which is a very expensive way to get health care,” Edgcomb says. “It also increases insurance premiums for everyone in Monterey County.”
There’s the economic argument for why the clinics help the community as a whole but then there’s also the health and wellness benefits to all Monterey County residents. “Sometimes life knocks us off our feet and we do need that medical help that these clinics offer,” Blau-Monroe says. “There are a lot of people who don’t have insurance and they are afraid to go to the doctor. The clinics keep Monterey County healthy.”…