Strate­gies in Petaluma draw atten­tion of state health department
By Jeff Quack­en­bush, Busi­ness Jour­nal Staff Reporter

The Petaluma Health Care Dis­trict has drawn the atten­tion and praise of a top Cal­i­for­nia health offi­cial for its com­mu­ni­ty programs.
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“This is a mod­el for oth­er com­mu­ni­ties,” said Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Health Care Ser­vices Chief Med­ical Offi­cer Dr. Neal Kohat­su, who was impressed with what he saw dur­ing a day­long site vis­it to Petaluma. “They’ve done good work devel­op­ing their health care sys­tem, with qual­i­ty strate­gies fos­ter­ing a healthy com­mu­ni­ty. Great work all around.”

DHCS was par­tic­u­lar­ly impressed with that community’s health mod­el, which includes ser­vices and fund­ing admin­is­tered out­side of Petaluma Val­ley Hos­pi­tal. They request­ed to vis­it Petaluma because they want­ed to see the hands-on efforts that health care dis­tricts can play in com­mu­ni­ties, beyond acute care and hospitals.

Dr. Kohat­su said his team will take what they learned from the day and work with oth­er coun­ties state-wide on issues of edu­ca­tion and social ser­vices, mak­ing sure peo­ple can find health­care ser­vices avail­able to them.

The vis­it took DHCS atten­dees to McDow­ell Ele­men­tary School, Petaluma Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter, Petaluma Health Cen­ter, meet­ing with child­care spe­cial­ists, the Petaluma Police Depart­ment, PHCD’s CEO Ramona Faith, com­mu­ni­ty out­reach rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the Heart­safe Com­mu­ni­ty program.

“The over­all theme that jumped out at me through­out the day was how the PHCD is the “glue” that fos­ters busi­ness and non­prof­it col­lab­o­ra­tion to tack­le health issues in the com­mu­ni­ty. It iden­ti­fies com­mu­ni­ty health needs through its assess­ments, feed­back, etc. and then brings the right groups to the table to launch ini­tia­tives to address issues,” said Melin­da Hepp, spokesper­son for PHCD.

One of those groups is the Healthy Com­mu­ni­ty Con­sor­tium (HC2), which has been col­lab­o­rat­ing with the com­mu­ni­ty for over 20 years. It has a his­to­ry of deal­ing with youth issues and have devel­oped strate­gies to reduce high rates of alco­hol, tobac­co and mar­i­jua­na use.

The root of the prob­lem, they found, was easy social and com­mer­cial access, low per­cep­tion of risks and an over con­cen­tra­tion of alco­hol out­lets. While the state aver­age is one alco­hol serv­ing estab­lish­ment for every 558 res­i­dents, Petaluma’s rate is 1 for every 279.

Petaluma also his­tor­i­cal­ly had a high num­ber of adults, host­ing par­ties with under­age drink­ing, the group found. HC2 worked to insti­tute fines and pos­si­ble arrest for any­one host­ing such a par­ty and since then police respons­es to such gath­er­ings have been great­ly reduced, said Diane Davis, HC2 pro­gram coordinator.

“Change takes time. You have to change atti­tudes and behav­ior. It takes a while but we’re get­ting there,” she said.

HC2 also worked to estab­lished a free “respon­si­ble bev­er­age ser­vice” train­ing which is now required every three years for estab­lish­ments serv­ing alcohol.

The group has also hand­ed out pack­ets to stu­dents at the begin­ning of the school year includ­ing a pledge against drugs for them and their par­ents to sign.

As a sign of their suc­cess in teen smok­ing, in 2008 Petaluma had one of the high­est teen smok­ing rates in the state. In 2013, the num­ber was down by 10 per­cent. HC2 has also pro­posed pass­ing an ordi­nance ban­ning smok­ing from mul­ti-unit hous­ing, hotels, out­door din­ing and busi­ness entry­ways, and ban­ning e‑cigarettes in eat­ing and drink­ing establishments.

PHCD is a pub­lic agency com­mit­ted to improv­ing the health and well-being of South­ern Sono­ma Coun­ty. It was formed in 1946. PHCD owns Petaluma Val­ley Hos­pi­tal and leas­es its oper­a­tion to St. Joseph Health.

In oth­er efforts PHCD is:

  • Work­ing with part­ners to increase the num­ber of 3 to 4‑year olds who attend preschool by expand­ing facil­i­ties, lever­ag­ing funds and ded­i­cat­ing local funding.
  • Part­ner­ing with men­tal and behav­ioral health groups in Sober Cir­cle link­ing the chron­i­cal­ly ine­bri­at­ed home­less to sobri­ety ser­vices and social sup­port programs.
  • Increas­ing con­sump­tion of local­ly pro­duced fruits and veg­eta­bles among Cal­fresh recip­i­ents by pro­vid­ing a $10 match­ing incen­tive at Petaluma Farm­ers Markets.
  • Part­ner­ing with Heart­safe Com­mu­ni­ty to increase sur­vival rates from car­diac emer­gen­cies through train­ing and AED installations.

Heart­Safe Com­mu­ni­ty (HSC)’s goal is to increase sur­vival rates from car­diac emer­gen­cies through CPR/AED train­ing, and strate­gic AED instal­la­tions in the work­place. The group part­ners with local police and oth­er enti­ties in the community.

Most recent­ly, Arrow Ben­e­fits has vol­un­teered to con­duct CPR class­es and pro­vide refer­rals for AED equip­ment. The first class was Feb. 11. Andrew McNeil, prin­ci­pal at Arrow, will be facil­i­tat­ing class­es each quar­ter, and is spear­head­ing oth­er com­mu­ni­ty health relat­ed train­ings with St. Joseph’s and Whole Foods. Arrow is also in the process of book­ing oth­er speak­ers to present on oth­er health relat­ed top­ics such as eat­ing healthy and can­cer prevention.

“The goal is mak­ing peo­ple more health con­scious in gen­er­al. We dis­cov­ered the com­mu­ni­ty as a whole is inter­est­ed in look­ing at ways to do that,” Mr. McNeil said.

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