Valley Forum: Community Health Center urgently needs support

I am proud to live in our Sonoma community, which does so much for its residents. I am thrilled when I read about the latest contributions from events designed to help fund essential organizations like La Luz, Boys & Girls Club, FISH and Vintage House, to mention a few. There seems to be a huge amount of money available when it is reported about in the papers, with names and photos of donors. Millions have been raised for Sonoma Valley Hospital, with attendant publicity, for buildings and infrastructure.

I bring this up because I am truly concerned about the difficulties Sonoma Valley Community Health Center is having in raising the relatively small amount of $385,000 to close escrow on a new building that would allow it to expand immediately and into the future.

SVCHC currently serves 7,000 local patients and last year handled 27,000 visits. By 2014, it is estimated that there will be a 12-to-30-percent increase in patient need. As one of many local, low-income seniors, I have been a patient there for more than six years. I feel compelled to share my positive experiences with the amazing staff, including the front office, the nurses, nurse practitioners and assistants, as well as the doctors.

They are sensitive and compassionate, have always listened to my concerns and do an amazing job under very difficult circumstances. I have had need of their services a few times a year for the past six years and have always been incredibly grateful they were there.

Not only is the location of the new site perfect in terms of size and room for growth, with necessary parking, but it is perfectly midway given the demographics of its patients. SVCHC is filling a critical need for many low-income seniors and many families who are employed by some of our most successful businesses. They are often paid less than minimum wage, or hired part-time in order to avoid fair compensation. They are the backbone of our tourist economy and their kids are desperately trying to learn in our overcrowded schools.

It broke my heart to see the statistics about the percentage of “economically disadvantaged” kids in each of our schools and how that corresponded to the poor STAR Test results. Many of these kids rely on food programs in order to not go hungry. They struggle to raise the bar for themselves and their families. It is wonderful to see the add-on programs being supported in such a big way, but these kids need and deserve health care and SVCHC is in a perfect position to continue to provide that.

With an expanded site, it plans to add a dental clinic, an onsite draw station for lab tests, educational classrooms and specialty medical services. We all deserve health care, regardless of our financial situation, but it is critical for young families so that their kids can grow healthfully and productively into adulthood.

If you’ve never stopped by the clinic, I encourage you to do so in order to get a true sense of how invaluable a resource it is. More importantly, I am hoping that a donor or donors with the financial means to do so will step up (with or without fanfare) and give this community the much-needed gift of healthy lives for thousands in our community. Please, this is Sonoma and SVCHC is an essential part of it.

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  Donna Waugh Campbell is a Sonoma Valley resident.