Advocate for Health Justice

In this issue of our newsletter, we interview our new board chair Wanda Tapia-Thomsen and Alliance Medical Centers' Director of Behavior Health Services Maria Juarez Sanchez. We also announce a new grant from Providence that will allow us to extend our CWC convenings to Healdsburg.

Board Member Montserrat Archila
Montserrat Archila

Hello Friends,

A New Year brings new possibilities. What a gift we are given to grow as a community and be present to one another.

With this spirit, I am pleased to announce that a recent grant to the Healthcare Foundation from Providence St. Joseph Health will make possible the extension of the Healthcare Foundation’s Community Wellness Center initiative to Healdsburg—this is a public convening and visioning process, carried out with the help of local community partners, toward the potential creation of a community wellness center designed by and for the people who will use it. You can read more about the start of Healthcare Foundation’s Community Wellness Center initiative here, and more about the focus in Healdsburg in this month’s newsletter.

As part of the Providence St. Joseph Health family, serving in Northern California, it brings me particular joy to see this project launch in 2024, as this project and the work of the Healthcare Foundation align with Providence’s organizational values of compassion, dignity, excellence, integrity, and in particular, justice. Our definition of this value includes the following statement: “We stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable, working to remove the causes of oppression and promoting justice for all.” I invite you to reflect on this statement and this month’s theme calling us to Advocate for Health Justice. 

In cooperation with like-minded individuals and organizations, we work towards removing barriers and ensuring justice for all. This month we spoke with Maria Juarez Sanchez of Alliance Medical Center, a Healthcare Foundation grantee and community partner, about the behavioral health services Alliance makes available to low-income and marginalized communities in northern Sonoma County.

A New Year also means welcoming new board members and bidding a grateful goodbye to Board members whose terms ended with 2023. I’m happy to welcome Kaleigh Bulloch Whitehall and Paul Greenall to the Board and join the entire Board in thanking Francisco Lopez and Peter McAweeney for their outstanding and steadfast service to the Healthcare Foundation.

We are also very grateful to our 2023 Board Chair Courtney Cochran and are thrilled to begin work with new Board Chair Wanda Tapia-Thomsen. Below, we speak with Wanda about her distinguished career and the experience and values she brings to all she does on behalf of health justice.

In Community,

Montserrat Archila
Board of Directors

The Year Ahead: A talk with incoming Healthcare Foundation Board Chair Wanda Tapia-Thomsen

Wanda Tapia-Thomsen

Wanda Tapia-Thomsen is a native of Sonoma County with a long career of service to low-income and underrepresented communities across northern California. She joined the Healthcare Foundation Board of Directors in 2021, bringing with her a wealth of professional and lived experience. By then she had retired as Assistant County Director at the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), where over 29 years she served in the Family Nutrition & Consumer Sciences, Horticultural and 4-H Departments. Wanda also served, until 2018, as Executive Director/CEO of Latino Service Providers (LSP), which she co-founded in 1989 to address the unmet needs of Latino residents in Sonoma County. 

In these roles and many others—including her work with the Latino Health Forum, Asian Health Forum, Beginning Farmer & Rancher Program, 5-a-Day Power Play Campaign, and the Childhood Obesity Coalition—Wanda has been an instrumental figure in the advance of health equity, social justice, and wellbeing in our region. 

As she steps into the role of Board Chair this month, we spoke with Wanda Tapia-Thomsen about some of what she’s learned in her career and the key Healthcare Foundation initiatives and community priorities she is focused on in the year ahead.

Can you tell us how your career at UCCE developed?

I started out as a nutrition educator with youth in elementary schools. I worked with the teachers to incorporate a nutrition education curriculum that aligned with the core standards of the educational system. I was very happy doing that, working with teachers and, later, working with adults in low-income areas, transition homes, and homeless shelters. UCCE provided many opportunities for advancement and bilateral movement and learning, so I later worked in the horticulture department, which led me to the world of agriculture. I worked on a backyard home composting project, for instance, which in part led to the creation of a zero-waste event in Sonoma County. This was very timely in the ’90s to raise awareness of environmental stewardship. Later I joined the 4-H Youth Development team, which connected me with youth programming, 4-H camps, ChickenQue and the 4-H community family.   

Along the way, I conducted a lot of outreach and gathering of information and worked closely with government offices. All of which gave me a broader view of the community and greater depth of knowledge. I felt lucky to work with so many different walks of people, agencies and government. 

It gave me invaluable skills, and taught me how to gain the trust of the community and the importance of being empathetic—I had to understand the lived experience of those I served. Having grown up in low-income neighborhoods myself, such as Roseland and South Park, I understood the challenges and barriers of the community I was reaching.

Full Article (4.5 min read)

Community Wellness Center Convenings in Healdsburg

A major grant from Providence extends the CWC visioning project to Healdsburg

Dra. Danny Dominguez of On the Margins listens at a Windsor Community Wellness Center meeting

This month, the Healthcare Foundation announced a grant of $285,000 secured in December from Providence St. Joseph Health to support a community convening and visioning process for residents of Healdsburg to explore the potential for a multicultural Community Wellness Center there. 

The project extends to Healdsburg a similar process instigated over a year ago in Cloverdale and Windsor with funding from North Sonoma County Healthcare District and Providence. The Healthcare Foundation, working with several key community partners, launched the neighborhood convenings in December 2022—reaching out in particular to historically marginalized and underserved Latine residents—to envision what an inclusive, safe, vibrant, green, and intergenerational community space of belonging would look like for residents in each of the three northern Sonoma County towns. 

Leading local community-based organizations collaborating on the Cloversdale project include La Familia Sana, Nuestra Comunidad, and Alexander Valley Healthcare; while in Windsor they are joined by Alliance Medical Center; and in Healdsburg by Corazón Healdsburg. In all three locations the project, which local participants have named “Nuestra Comunidad Sana,” is being facilitated by On the Margins.

The grant from Providence will go to community outreach, facilitation of community meetings, and a report to be used as a vision and roadmap toward a community wellness center that serves the express needs and desires of Healdsburg residents. Moreover, the project advances the recommendation of the City of Healdsburg’s own recent DEI report, which pointed to the need for a multicultural community center for residents.

Full Article (1 min read)

Partner Spotlight: A conversation with Maria Juarez Sanchez, Director of Behavioral Health Services at Alliance Medical Center

Maria Juarez Sanchez, LCSW

The Healthcare Foundation recognizes that the country’s mental health crisis is not distributed evenly but disproportionately impacts our communities along economic and ethnic lines. Through grants and our own Mental Health Talent Pipeline scholarship program, the Healthcare Foundation supports increased access to mental and behavioral health services for vulnerable and underserved populations across northern Sonoma County as well as programs to increase resiliency and capacity among those serving the community. 

Alliance Medical Center, a Healthcare Foundation grantee and community partner, offers medical, dental and behavioral health services to the underserved communities of Healdsburg, Windsor and the surrounding Northern Sonoma County region. Alliance’s behavioral health offerings include assessment, treatment, and support for a variety of mental, emotional, and substance use conditions and support adults, families, teens, and children through a wide range of services and treatments. The bilingual staff serves a largely Latine clientele, the majority of whom are Spanish speakers. Patients are overwhelmingly Medi-Cal or Medicare recipients or seen on a sliding scale.

With the aim of better understanding, and increasing awareness around, the need for mental health services in our region, as well as the approaches and resources that can best meet that need, we spoke recently with Maria Juarez Sanchez, Director of Behavioral Health Services at Alliance Medical Center. 

Can you describe your position at Alliance Medical Center?

I started at Alliance in September of 2019 as a licensed clinical social worker. I’m in the pediatric area, so I see children and families primarily. I became the Interim Behavioral Health Director in 2021, and moved into the full role as Behavioral Health Director in 2022. I’m also still seeing patients. I live in Santa Rosa, so I am able to provide onsite services in person. I know many in our community are struggling to get in to see an in-person provider, so I’m glad to be able to offer that. It is an important value for us at Alliance to stay grounded in our mission by having those connections with our patients.

Full Article (5 min read)

Sponsorships Available Here

Related News + Stories