Celebrate Our Community Heroes

This month, we celebrate the expansion of the COVID-19 vaccination program, and welcome our newest board member Wanda Tapia.

Dear Friends,

This week my parents, ages 84 and 86, were vaccinated at the Paso Robles Fairgrounds in San Luis Obispo County. It’s liberating to know that soon I’ll be able to hug them after an entire year of only seeing them on Zoom. To add to the excitement, President Biden is saying that vaccine doses could be available for all adult Americans by the end of May. We are not out of the woods yet, but the light is streaming through the tunnel.

Evidence of our progress can be seen in the heroic efforts of our local FQHC’s, who have vaccinated nearly 10,000 people in northern Sonoma County over the last month, focusing on folks 65 and older, healthcare and agricultural workers, and now educators. More on that in the article below. There are so many heroes to celebrate! Much credit is due to the leaders and medical staff at Alexander Valley Healthcare, Alliance Medical Centers, and the bilingual staff at Corazón Healdsburg that helped with outreach and scheduling vaccine appointments, and the many volunteers who have stepped up to help with registration. Credit is also due to the many vineyard owners and managers who organized transportation to the clinics so their workers could get their shots.

Speaking of celebrating our community heroes, thank you to all our supporters who have risen up to become Healthcare Heroes! Your unrestricted contributions help fund these organizations that are on the frontlines of the local vaccine rollout. If you are not already, please consider becoming a Healthcare Hero monthly sustainer for any amount today.

In a demonstration of the Healthcare Foundation’s commitment to health equity, the Board and staff are engaged in diversity, equity and belonging training with local group Equity First. The workshops are raising our awareness of the systems of which we are a part, and the importance of including multiple community voices in our granting practices. To that end, we are very proud that our Board is now 27% Latinx. Please help me welcome Wanda Tapia, our newest member and interviewed below, who brings decades of leadership in Sonoma County to the Healthcare Foundation Board of Directors.

Together, with your steadfast support, we can ensure greater health equity in northern Sonoma County in 2021, and beyond.

With excitement about our future,

Kim Bender
Executive Director

Vaccine Update: March 2021

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations these days. The good news: More Sonoma County residents are getting vaccinated every day. The bad news: Information about the vaccine is still far more confusing than it should be.

Two weeks ago, for instance, the biggest question on people’s minds was, How do I get the vaccine? Now, at least as of March 5, the big question is, Where do I go to get it?

This is where the Healthcare Foundation comes in. While we’re not directly administering COVID-19 vaccines, we support a number of local and regional healthcare organizations that are, and we’re delighted to get involved and share information about when shots are available, and where residents need to go to get them.

We’ll get to the education part in a moment. First, some individual successes to share:

Alliance Medical Center in Healdsburg has vaccinated more than 4,200 people who live in Healdsburg, Windsor, Geyserville and surrounding communities. With the help of many partners and volunteers, Alliance was able to vaccinate roughly 1,200 elders, almost 2,500 people of Latinx heritage, about 1,500 people who do not have health insurance, as well as public-school employees from Healdsburg and Windsor.

According to CEO Joan Churchill, AMC started injecting eligible patients with second doses this past weekend—a notable milestone considering that the vaccination effort started just a short three weeks ago.

“Alliance expects to continue offering mass vaccinations as our state and county open up vaccine opportunities to people in the grocery and restaurant industries,” she said. “[We] will seek to ensure small businesses in Healdsburg, Windsor, and Geyserville—especially minority-owned businesses and businesses employing minority staff in County-sanctioned categories—will have access.”

Farther north, at Alexander Valley Healthcare in Cloverdale, CEO Debbie Howell says her team vaccinated more than 5,000 seniors, agricultural workers and teachers between January 25 and February 26.

She added the center is hosting drive-through vaccine events weekly, and that these book up quickly.

Corazón Healdsburg, another Healthcare Foundation partner, continues to play a pivotal role in local vaccination efforts, helping community members connect with AMC, AVH, or other organizations to get vaccines as soon as they can.

How do you know if you’re eligible for a shot? The best way to determine current rules is to follow guidelines from the California Department of Public Health and the Sonoma County Division of Public Health. The county has put together a great resource with information on eligibility tiers and vaccine sites here.

As of this writing, Sonoma County was in Phase 1B, which includes people age 65 and older, people who work in education and childcare, agriculture and food manufacturing workers, emergency services, and grocery and restaurant workers.

Individuals who are eligible to be vaccinated should first contact their health-care provider or primary care physician for information on how they can receive a vaccine or to make an appointment.

Some general notes:

  • Kaiser members should contact their primary care provider here, or contact the Kaiser appointment or advice line to determine their eligibility and schedule an appointment.
  • Eligible individuals who receive primary care through Sutter Health should contact Sutter here, or call (844) 987-6115.
  • Eligible individuals who receive their primary care through St. Joseph Health system should contact St. Joseph to schedule an appointment.
  • Eligible individuals whose primary care providers are through a medical clinic will have an opportunity to be vaccinated through one of several clinics being set up through the County Health department.

Welcome Wanda Tapia!

Wanda, what made you interested in joining the Healthcare Foundation Board?

Board member Esther Lemus invited me to participate on the nominating committee and that was the primary hook. I couldn’t say no to Esther! I also respected that in terms of representing the Latino community, the Healthcare Foundation is honestly walking their talk. The organization wants to truly reflect the community, as demonstrated by making a commitment to recruiting Latinos to help build out the Board. I thought that it was very refreshing to see words in action. Needless to say, when I was invited to consider a board position myself, I agreed. As soon as I started on the Board, I found everyone to be very respectful, compassionate, and caring. I thought, “Wow, this is like a cohesive, happy, family.”

What’s your professional background?

I’ve been a community activist for over 30 years. I started out working with the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in their community outreach arm here in Sonoma County. I worked in various departments and worked on various community needs, such as food insecurity, nutrition education, youth development, agriculture and more as they pertained to the Latinx community, children and families, and their unique associated matters. I’ve also worked in the mental health arena focusing on children and families, and health access. In 1989, I co-founded the non-profit Latino Service Providers to create and respond to the needs of the Latino community and it officially became a non-profit in 2013.

You’ve done so many varied things! What motivates you at this point in your career?

I wanted to give back to the community in ways I hadn’t before – which, in the past, was primarily direct service. Being on the Board of the Healthcare Foundation is a more strategic role that opens up the opportunity to provide a lived experience lens in my input. I have an understanding of community health needs and facilitating the exchange of resources to and from the community. Since I live in northern Sonoma County, I wanted to focus on these areas, also, because they are not traditionally reached as much as the central areas due to geographics.

How has your experience been so far as a Board Member?

Well, I’ve been on more than 30 boards in my life so I had plenty to compare to. I was so pleasantly surprised when I started on my first committee at the Healthcare Foundation to see that there was such strong leadership and cohesiveness. This is really a cutting-edge, community-minded and goal-oriented group. Everyone on the Board is going in the same direction, looking ahead and finding ways to meet the diverse needs in the community. When the group is so together like that you can do amazing, phenomenal things.

Thank you for joining us Wanda! We have so much to learn from you!

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