Featured Photo: Dr. Daniela Dominguez of On the Margins, Kim Bender of the Healthcare Foundation, Samantha Guthman of Alexander Valley Healthcare, Jade Weymouth of La Familia Sana and Alma Bowen of Nuestra Communidad at the first planning meeting for the Cloverdale Community Wellness Center design process.
Investment in Social Capital and Community Mental Health
In March, the Healthcare Foundation secured support from North Sonoma County Healthcare District to convene local community-based organizations for a two-year, community-design process that will lead to a future Community Wellness Center (CWC) in Cloverdale.
This project is geared to supporting the social and cultural life and expressed needs of the entire Cloverdale community, with special attention to lifting the voices of the Latinx community. The ideas and perspectives of neighborhood residents will be leading forces in the design and implementation of the CWC, beginning with the development and planning process.
The initiative will consist of an in-depth engagement and collaboration with Cloverdale residents to conceptualize and design a CWC that truly serves their needs, and involves the active participation of the local community, from farmworkers to city officials. The Healthcare Foundation has partnered with two Cloverdale organizations, Nuestra Comunidad and La Familia Sana, to host and perform outreach to local community members, and provide stipends for childcare to encourage working people to participate. This design/visioning process will also coordinate with and enhance Alexander Valley Healthcare’s plans to construct a new health facility in Cloverdale. The Healthcare Foundation has contracted with On the Margins, a local health consultancy and advocacy group, which already has a track record creating and delivering culturally responsive and needs-based health and healing programming for the Cloverdale community, to facilitate this two-year design process.
A CWC can encompass a wide range of community activities and services. For the Latinx communities of northern Sonoma County, a community-designed CWC can potentially meet a variety of expressed needs, including as a site for recreational spaces and programming for youth and adults, childcare, distribution of vital information and resources, workshops and classes, linkages to services, public forums, community events (weddings and quinceañeras, for example), and more.
Healthcare Foundation’s Role in Convening This Project
As part of our strategic planning process in 2021, the Healthcare Foundation conducted research into ways to improve community mental health, particularly for marginalized and underserved community members. Findings revealed that interventions that involve multi-sector partnerships, include community members as part of the intervention, and deliver services in community settings are consistently the most effective—both for individuals and whole communities.
Many factors can promote or obstruct good mental health at all socio-ecological levels, and communities have knowledge that is invaluable in developing effective interventions. Local Community Wellness Centers, designed by and for the people who will actually use them, foster trust, a sense of safety, belonging and well-being. In so doing, Community Wellness Centers increase social capital, thus acting as a mediating factor for stressors of all kinds and increase life satisfaction—which in turn result in measurable health-related benefits, both physical and mental.
Richmond’s Pogo Park community-led model, for example, which Healthcare Foundation staff visited last August along with local north county partners and stakeholders, empowers residents to create and continually innovate their collective environment, and has demonstrated many positive impacts on the surrounding community, as detailed in a 2017 UC Berkeley study. More generally, living conditions (including the physical, social, economic, and service environments) are understood to be a powerful social driver of mental health, with community organizing and civic engagement as factors in improving community mental health outcomes.
The Community Wellness Center design project, which the Healthcare Foundation hopes to replicate in Windsor and Healdsburg, is a very welcome and much needed development for Cloverdale.