Leslie Abasta-Cummings is a healthcare star. She is determined, strategic, passionate and caring. It is rare to find someone so committed to making healthcare accessible, affordable and available to every person in the Central Valley. Her determination and talent will help ensure that her dream comes true.

Leslie is the CEO of Livingston Community Health (LCH). She has grown the organization into a 10-site Federally Qualified Health Center serving Merced and Stanislaus Counties. With her Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Glen Villanueva, and a wonderful executive team, she is leading an effort to create meaningful change.

Leslie comes from a multi-cultural family and understands what it is like to be without services and care. Because of her personal experience with the challenges many people face, fixing our healthcare system is not merely important to Leslie, it’s a personal priority. She understands that far too many women struggle to obtain needed medical and well-baby care. To aid women in Livingston, LCH has created a medical home in the heart of the city – a central location where women, children and men can obtain quality healthcare.

Leslie is focused on severely bending the cost curve; that is, helping all families access affordable care. To do so, she has led an effort to redefine where and how healthcare is delivered, recognizing the importance of bringing care to people when they are homebound.

Her goal is to create a healthcare response team that is family-focused. For example, she’s created a plan that allows parents to speak with physicians by phone or text when a child is sick, when appropriate, rather than having to bring that sick child into a healthcare clinic. With services available in English, Spanish and other languages, Livingston Community Health is pioneering new strategies in healthcare that are both patient-focused and family-focused.

Leslie receives a lot of support from her Board of Directors and, in particular, from Mary Ellen Arana, the chairwoman of the LCH Board. The amazing duo, joined by other board members, want to create changes in how healthcare is delivered to benefit the people in our community. But what is truly exciting is their recognition that we cannot change healthcare unless we also change how people live. They are therefore focused on what some call the social determinants of health – helping people earn more so they can achieve better healthcare and mental economic options.

As part of this effort, Leslie and her team are working to provide healthcare training opportunities for members of our community. They want to ensure that every person who wants to work in the healthcare field has a chance to be part of the future of the community by providing care, not just receiving it. One element of this initiative is a program that would provide training in respite and adult day care services, so that people who are caring for disabled family members, old and young, have access to the help they need.

I suspect in the coming months, the new healthcare environment that Leslie and her team are creating will demonstrate why she is a gift to each of us.

— Jeffrey Lewis is the President and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment in Turlock.  The views expressed are his own (jeffrey@legacyhealthendowment.org).

In a world where healthcare access is a challenge, and where affordability looms large, Tony Weber has been charging forward, building programs to ensure that the poor, uninsured and others have access to needed care.  For Tony, the patient and quality care services are his priority.  As the CEO of Golden Valley Health Centers (GVHCs), patients pay what they can afford – no one is ever turned away.

Since assuming the CEO position in April 2014, Tony Weber has built a reputation as an empathetic and passionate leader who builds sensible healthcare solutions with innovative ideas.  He has successfully ushered in greater quality improvements for patients and their families, expanded services offered to patients, grown the organization from Merced and Stanislaus Counties to also include San Joaquin County.  Most important, he has ensured that GVHCs are investing in the local communities they serve by having a handful of staff singularly focused on helping community partners grow with Golden Valley.

The importance of this is underscored by the more than 130,000 patients they cared for in 2018 representing almost 508,000 patient visits, a 15 percent growth from 2017.  Today, GVHCs has 36 sites across the three counties, and they continue to grow.  Regardless of the growth, Tony Weber has never lost sight on ensuring quality care in every service provided by GVHCs.

Tony’s focus on access is also evident in his commitment to advocacy and education. GVHC under Tony’s direction has had a clear focus on advocating to address the provider shortages in the valley, providing quality healthcare for all people, and the integration of dental and behavioral health services in rural areas. It is his dedication to working with communities, elected officials, and his staff to draw attention where it’s most needed that has made GVHC what it is today.

Reading Tony’s resume, it reads like a who's who in healthcare.  His background is wonderfully diverse, building a solid career from the ground up and recognizing that no job is too small.  Like many true healthcare leaders, he looks at our ongoing healthcare crisis as an opportunity to create change that will change the lives of people across the Central Valley.  As a husband, father and grandfather, protecting families are at the core of who Tony Weber is.

And, family for Tony has no age barrier.  Today with his leadership team, they are working on building a long-term care system to aid community members who are dully eligible for Medi-Cal and Medicare.  His goal: ensure that community-based services are available to help seniors and disabled community members access to care at home – never in a nursing home unless necessary.

Character, tenacity, commitment to family and community.  These are words that define Tony Weber and why he is a healthcare hero.

— Jeffrey Lewis is the President and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment in Turlock.  The views expressed are his own (jeffrey@legacyhealthendowment.org).

Turlock and its surrounding communities need to address our growing homeless population. The needs are great, and the challenge is significant, but not impossible

No one wants to be homeless, cold or sick.  Many homeless individuals are women and men who got lost in a depersonalized healthcare and mental health system; people whose lives changed when the economy took a dive and they lost their jobs.  Others became part of a drug culture that has and continues to devastate their lives and the lives of their families and friends. Turlock has a handful of nonprofit organizations that have taken the lead in addressing the needs of the homeless.  The City of Turlock has offered its assistance, too. The core of the problem? There is no plan.

No single nonprofit agency or government agency has taken the lead in developing and implementing a strategy.  Without a leader and a strategy, discussions continue to be circular, frustrations of downtown business owners grow, community members continue to raise safety concerns and homeless women and men do not know where to turn. Acting without research wastes resources and time that the homeless and the members of our community do not have to spare. Our success as a community will be insured by our ability to integrate long-term and short-term planning and to maximize available funding and services.

What is in place?

We Care provides nighttime shelter for homeless men and housing solutions.  The Turlock Gospel Mission has focused on caring for homeless women and families. The Salvation Army is taking care of whoever walks through their door. United Samaritans Foundation feeds people lunch, provides showers, outreach and food boxes; and the Turlock Gospel Mission offers free breakfast and perhaps additional meals.  Haven Women’s Center provides care for homeless domestic abuse survivors and their children.  Prodigal Sons and Daughters focuses on teenagers who may be homeless, using drugs or alcohol and treating adults for their addictions.

These are all functioning organizations that are providing worthwhile services. Our community and the community’s homeless individuals, need them all.  However, let’s look for a moment beyond the homeless community’s basic needs for food, shelter and safety. Are there training programs that some homeless individuals may qualify for?  Are there housing programs to begin to help bring a sense of normality to the lives of homeless women, children, families and men?  What is the role of Stanislaus County, and what have they done to help Turlock?

The questions are endless. The frustrations continue to mount across government, business, nonprofits and those legitimately in need.  Compounding these problems is the need for access to medical care and mental health services.

While each of these steps is important and valuable, no one has stepped forward to take ownership of the issue and build a strategy to address the multiple problems faced by various stakeholders (or take ownership). It’s a new year.  Let’s begin 2019 with a plan called, 'Building A Better Turlock' which is outlined, below.

Step One:  Who is Serving the Homeless?

If the Mayor and City Council want our help,  Legacy Health Endowment wants to step up.  To begin, we will lead an effort to survey the major programs serving the homeless.  The survey will consider the services provided, the fundraising needs, the gaps in care and a recommended path forward.  The survey would be transparent by working with a handful of leaders of homeless programs, the City, the Turlock Journal Editor and downtown business owners.  This would help ensure that we are focusing on the issues that matter, the questions and answers that are being raised and considered and conclusions about how best to address the challenges we face.

Step Two: Addressing the Health and Mental Health Needs of the Homeless

Recently, Legacy Health Endowment provided funding to the Castle Family Health Center and UCSF Fresno School of Medicine to launch a mobile healthcare clinic.  Physician residents from the UCSF Fresno program are providing physicals, flu shots and other primary care services to ensure that people who need healthcare services have access.  The EMC Health Foundation has funded a full-time mental health clinician to work with the homeless to begin to understand the kinds of mental health issues involved.  Throughout the next few months, we will report to the Mayor and City Council on whether, and to what extent, there is a healthcare crisis for the homeless, as well as how it is being addressed today and tomorrow. 

Step Three:  Articulating a Plan

In 60 days,  LHE  will present elected officials, business leaders, homeless advocates and the community with a report on our findings and very specific recommendations.  

Step Four:  Important Interim Steps

Throughout the next 60 days, we propose the following:

1. The Turlock Gospel Mission or United Samaritans utilize its meals programs and food bank to serve the homeless;

2. We urge the Salvation Army and the Turlock Gospel Mission Homeless Assistance Ministry (H.A.M. Day Center) to open their doors for people to a have a warm place to rest at night since We Care is usually at capacity these days.  Imagine lining up cots on the gymnasium floor of the Salvation Army Building to offer a homeless individual a warm bed;

3. The City Executives, led by Maryn Pitt, (who is knowledgable and passionate about solving these problems locally) will work with the County to identify funds to help the Gospel Mission fund the operation of the warming center;

4. We Care to dedicate two beds in its shelter to provide shelter for homeless men being released from EMC Hospital, with Covenant Care at Home providing the follow up medical care for not more than 10 days to help get these men back on their feet and into the community;

5. Golden Valley Health Centers continue its mobile nurse program helping treat homeless women and men with immediate healthcare needs.  The program has and continues to be a great success; and

6. It is long overdue to have a centralized food distribution strategy where individual nonprofits are not picking up the donated food and then being charged for it.

This is a 60-day plan.  Not perfect, but a plan, nevertheless. It allows all the stakeholders in our community to participate and it promotes and embraces transparency as we begin to move forward.  Once the report is finished, we will offer to present the findings to the Mayor, City Council, City Manager and staff.

There are no quick or easy solutions to addressing the needs of the homeless, but we can, we must, stop the finger pointing and build a solution.  The need is great and the challenge enormous, but not impossible.  My email is jeffrey@legacyhealthendowment.org — let me know if you want to ‘Help Build A Better Turlock.’


As one of the fastest growing regions of California, the San Joaquin Valley’s persistent shortage of health care providers is creating a public health crisis with no easy solutions in sight. Fully addressing the situation will require a multi-pronged strategy, including expanding medical school opportunities in the Valley and providing debt relief for graduates who agree to stay and practice medicine here.

On that first point, we have good news to share.

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new bill into law creating the UCSF San Joaquin Valley Regional Medical Education Endowment Fund. The fund is solely dedicating to supporting annual operating costs and development of a branch campus of UCSF’s School of Medicine in the San Joaquin Valley. The goal is to support 50 students per class for 10 years which would go a long way toward reducing the shortage of physicians in our area.

Last year, Legacy Health Endowment worked with Livingston Community Health and CSU Stanislaus to create a new Master’s in Family Medicine, which will graduate 23 nurse practitioners in December 2019. Under the supervision of a physician, nurse practitioners can improve access to care for patients and help alleviate our region’s shortage of providers.

These advancements are critically important because the scarcity of physicians in the Valley is growing worse by the day. The Robert Graham Foundation released a report in 2017 showing that California’s primary care physician shortage will exceed 8,000 doctors by 2030.

The Valley already has just 71 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents compared to 86 per 100,000 in the rest of the state. That gap will only get worse over the next 7 to 10 years.

Graduating physicians and nurse practitioners locally is critical, but is insufficient by itself. We also must address the debt these practitioners face upon graduation. LHE already has taken action by offering NP graduates the opportunity live and work in Stanislaus and Merced counties debt free once they graduate. In fact, 15 of the initial 23 students have agreed to do just that.

Next, we want to create a similar program for medical school graduates. Upon completion of their residency programs, young doctors often find themselves heavily in debt, from $150,000 to $300,000 or more. Many look to work in communities, and for health systems, providing a debt-relief program. Such programs are lacking in the Central Valley. Many employers who offer them, do not focus on the poor, immigrants, or undocumented workers – nor on middle-class individuals who can only afford high-deductible health insurance plans.

By creating a physician debt relief program and coupling it with a new UCSF School of Medicine branch campus, we can make a significant dent in reducing the shortage of primary care physicians and specialists and significantly improve access to care.

Last month, New York University Medical School announced that all current and future students would receive full-tuition scholarships. Of 151 medical schools in the United States, NYU is the first to offer free tuition to medical students.

Imagine the impact a similar program would have here in the San Joaquin Valley through the UCSF Medical School, targeting students who agree to live and work in our medically underserved communities. By educating our own doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners in the Valley, and providing debt relief for those who choose to live and work here upon graduation, we can go a long way toward improving our own healthcare infrastructure and quality of life.

These challenges are not new; the debate has gone on for years with little or no change. It’s time to take specific action that leads to real results. We cannot ignore Medi-Cal patients, and we cannot forget about the middle class.

As lawn signs pop up like wildflowers around the city, we are reminded that another mayor’s race approaches. Take note: This race will sketch out the city’s path forward, shape our fiscal strategy, set forth a business development plan, address the problems of our homeless population, and, hopefully, recognize that we must strengthen our community’s human and physical infrastructure.

In short, it could define our city’s future.

As voters consider the qualities they believe a mayor should have, they would do well to remember something the late President John F. Kennedy said: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Anyone can run for public office, but not everyone has the ability or willingness to listen and learn. First and foremost, leadership is about understanding what the community needs, listening to what people are saying and then listening some more. The desire to listen is a unique and special quality that far too few people running for office possess.

Over the next three months, let’s ask ourselves whether each candidate can truly lead, listen and execute. Challenge ourselves to read between the lines, uncover the truth and decide whether we think they are sincere. Does this person have the capacity to grow with the position, to admit when they are wrong, and to modify their position when necessary?

We need a leader who will not just talk about problems, but who will tackle issues that most people see as insurmountable. Does this candidate back his or her words with actions?

A major factor in politics is transparency. Will the next mayor lead Turlock with an open forum so that everyone can hear what is being said and have an opportunity to ask questions?

What about courage? True leaders must embrace openness and welcome public input.

Why is the person running for office and why now? Is he/she outlining a plan? Has the candidate worked on issues of importance in other positions, inside and outside government?

Far too often, elected officials look right past the person with whom they’re speaking to see who is standing behind them. Do you think the candidate talks with you and not over you?

Does the candidate have a track record of valuing the thoughts and ideas of city employees?

Our fire and police force do an outstanding job. Do the candidates have a safety agenda? Are they telling voters how to make Turlock safer and how much it will cost? Where will they find the money to pay for it?

Turlock’s elderly population is growing. Numerous children in our communities are enrolled in Medi-Cal, and we face low-income populations who have few choices. What strategies has the candidate offered to address the needs of senior citizens and children? The poor? The homeless? Are those solutions feasible?

Finally, our community is a melting pot of citizens from across the globe. Our leaders have a responsibility to create an environment that is safe, respectful and considerate. During this election, think about these principles, form an educated opinion. Then vote.

Finally, be accountable and proud of the person we elect mayor of Turlock.

This is an incredible community. This mayor’s race will define its path forward. It is important to our economic future, and I hope to each of us as well.

modesto bee

We live in a political world today where indecision and inaction echo within the halls of Congress and State Capitols across America. The biggest risks to our financial security in retirement, health care expenses and long-term care costs, continue to be ignored by elected officials and those who seek to replace them.

Policymakers fail to grasp that 70 percent of Californians over the age of 65 will need some form of long-term care and support services. Complicating this will be the fact that the wave of aging seniors will have insufficient savings to pay for health care and caregiver services, so the children of aging parents will continue to be financially constrained in helping their parents. Further, an increasing strain of state and federal budgets will limit the ability to help all aging Californians and their families.

Two important facts compound the crisis: a long-term care model that was created decades ago that does not reflect a drastically changed population, and insufficient preparation and planning to meet the needs of baby boomers’ anticipated needs as they continue to grow older.

For many families, the long-term care roller coaster ride starts with a phone call, often in the middle of the night, with a voice saying, “I’m calling about your father.” And for most, they won’t know if dad is financially prepared for this new phase of his life, or if they will now pick up the tab for the array of services he will need to remain in his home for as long as possible. And if he needs more care than can be provided at home, the financial burden to the family is significant, eating into savings for their own retirement costs, thereby ensuring the next generation will face aging with no savings as well.

In the end, children of aging parents or an aging spouse exhaust their financial resources. There is no long-term care policy. It was talked about but was too expensive at age 68. When it comes to preparing for the health necessities of old age – ensuring healthy, affordable independence for seniors – we are failing.

In California, we have a beacon of hope for a brighter future as a result of the vision and leadership of Gary West and Mary West, founders of the West Health Foundation in San Diego.. Joined by Bruce Chernof and The SCAN Foundation, Mr. West recently issued a call to action with a nonpartisan, public awareness and education campaign We Stand with Seniors… Will You?

The campaign’s goal is to educate the gubernatorial candidates and state lawmakers about the impending crisis, and to prod them to develop a master plan for aging with dignity.

Recently, the campaign commissioned a statewide voter survey to understand voters’ sentiment on critical senior issues. Two important data points emerged:

Sixty-four percent of voters expressed their anxiety surrounding the state’s lack of action underscoring the fact that the state is failing older voters; and An overwhelming eighty-six percent of voter’s value programs that promote and provide community-based care to aid elderly families and children of aging parents.

Someone should thank Gary and Mary West for having the foresight to gather this information, and to encourage elected officials and those running for office to do something, anything.

America is swiftly approaching critical mass in our long-term home and healthcare sector. Almost 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every day – more than doubling the number of retirees who will require long-term care by 2050.

The long-term care crisis is compounded by the singular focus of Congress and many state legislatures on the uninsured, and in maintaining Obama Care. This perpetuates the long-term care crisis. With elected officials wearing blinders, it is time for a California strategy: Take the preliminary information gathered by the Gary and Mary West Health Foundation and use it as the basis for building a master plan for aging – a California healthcare and long-term care roadmap.

Long-term care is America’s single largest healthcare crisis. It has and will continue to bankrupt middle-class families unless there is a national solution or at least a California strategy. The costs of ignoring America’s long-term care catastrophe are not going to shrink just because elected officials shirk their duty.

By 2030, nearly one-fifth of our population will be over the age of 65 and 70 percent of them will require some form of long-term care. Without a viable infrastructure for providing senior independence, there will continue to be a large portion of seniors who must rely on already over-stretched family members for long-term care, putting into peril the next

There is no greater challenge facing America, no greater opportunity confronting Congress and no greater need than to have the two California Gubernatorial candidates debate the future of aging and long-term care in California.

The need is great. The time for leadership is now.

Jeffrey Lewis on Health Care

State of Reform is a stakeholder-driven initiative that tries to bridge the gap between the worlds of health care and health policy.

We try to develop vehicles for the dissemination of information, case studies, best practices, strategic insight, and lessons learned.

Times Argus, Central City, Kentucky

(NAPSI)—If you or someone you love is one of the millions of Americans with a chronic disease or a life-threatening condition, pharmaceutical manufacturers and their partners offer you a gift of hope this holiday season.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are criticized as Scrooge or the Grinch in our country’s health care system. Elected officials and advocacy organizations want to blame somebody for rising Rx costs, and the most obvious target is the Big Pharma.

But in this blame game, very little attention is given to the help the pharmaceutical industry and its partners quietly provide to patients in need through a variety of programs.

Such programs are often based on the patient’s household income, but not always. Patients with no health insurance coverage are often the first group considered eligible. Likewise, those with one or more chronic or life-threatening conditions are a high priority.

If you fall into one of these categories, check out the Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) found on individual pharmaceutical company websites or through Partnership for Prescription Assistance (www.pparx.org), the website created by PhRMA, the trade association representing pharmaceutical manufacturers, linking patients to more than 475 different assistance programs.

On most of these websites, you can be connected with a customer support team member who can help determine if you are eligible and get you enrolled. You will be asked to verify that you are insured or uninsured and, in some cases, provide proof of income. You may need your physician to validate your condition. But once approved, access to medication is almost immediate.

(Note: Patients enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid may not be eligible.)

Pharmaceutical manufacturers also offer co-pay assistance, in which the patient is offered help with the cost of medication co-payments. Some co-pay assistance programs do not limit who is eligible. And, it is important to know that some co-pay assistance programs will not help people on Medicare. Each program sets its own rules.

People searching for an online provider should check out www.RxAssist.org. This site was developed by AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, with the sole purpose of helping people access needed medications. It is one of the best sites available.

The California Chronic Care Coalition (CCCC) launched the website www.mypatientrights.com in California and is taking it nationwide to help people who have been denied treatment or medicines, experienced delays or are dissatisfied with the decisions made by their health plan. Today, this program is operating in 17 states. It helps patients get the care or treatment they need if denied, or if their plans don’t cover their meds and force them to pay full price. The program is available in 17 states—check the website to see if your state has a program.

This holiday season, if you need help with your medications, you are not alone. Go to the websites cited throughout this article. They can help connect you with low-cost and free alternatives. It is worth your time to explore these options. Feel free to e-mail me with your questions.

The Community Access National Network, otherwise known as CANN, today appointed a national commission

to take a thorough and candid review of the 340B Drug Pricing Program (hereafter referred to as 340B Program), and make specific recommendations to Congress on how and in what ways the program should be strengthened. In this effort to address the myriad of issues confronting the 340B Program and bring a reasoned strategy to the forefront, CANN’s President & CEO, William E. Arnold will co-chair the commission, along with Jeffrey R. Lewis, President & CEO of the Legacy Health Endowment (LHE) based in Turlock, California.

The 340B Program is a federal program that allows specific categories of covered entities including some hospitals, clinics, hemophiliac programs, Ryan White clinics, State AIDS Drug Assistance programs, and other eligible health centers to obtain outpatient prescription drugs at discounted prices. Drug prices under the 340B Program are generally less than the net cost of drugs paid by state Medicaid programs.

Stakeholders and policymakers at the federal and state levels of government have been grappling with the intended purpose and appropriate scope of the 340B Program since its inception in 1992. The program was originally designed to correct an unintended consequence of the 1990 Medicaid prescription drug rebate program that resulted in higher drug prices for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and safety-net providers. Some

lawmakers involved in the design of 340B Program had hoped that lower drug prices would help covered entities to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services.

“The 340B program has brought great value to covered entities and helped millions of Americans access affordable medications,” said Jeffrey R. Lewis. “To ensure its long-term effectiveness and viability, the Commission will examine all aspects of the program to make specific recommendations to Congress on how the program could be the most impactful today and tomorrow while recognizing its original purpose.”

William E. Arnold echoed, “In general, I have watched the growth of the 340B Program since its inception and more specifically observed many Ryan White clinics leverage the program to serve their clients living with HIV/AIDS. We have a responsibility to ensure the program with improved patient outcomes serves the maximum number of people. Programmatic transparency must include clear reporting requirements to ensure 340B-related funds are used for the populations and localities Congress specifies.”

With solid backgrounds in the world of the 340B Program, Co-Chairmen Arnold and Lewis expect the work of the Commission to start in May 2018 and to be completed during Summer 2018. The Commission will issue a report and specific recommendations to Congress after Labor Day.

340B Commission members include:

• William Arnold, Commission Co-Chair, President & CEO of the Community Access National Network (Washington, DC)

• Jeffrey Lewis, Commission Co-Chair, President & CEO of the Legacy Health Endowment (Turlock CA)

• Steve Adams, former Colorado AFL-CIO President (Denver, CO)

• The Honorable Donna Christensen, retired Member of Congress (U.S. Virgin Islands)

• Edward Hamilton, Executive Director & Founder of the Ohio ADAP Educational Initiative (Columbus, OH)

• Jacki Leifer, Partner at Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell, LLP (Washington, DC)

• Brandon Macsata, CEO of the ADAP Advocacy Association (Raleigh, NC)

• Leslie McGowan, CEO of Livingston Community Health (Livingston, CA) – a federally qualified health center

• Mike Wright, Co-Founder of WellPartnerPBM, retired (Portland, OR)

• Diane Nugent, M.D., Chief of Hematology, Department of Pediatrics at the UC Irvine Medical School and Founder & President of the Center for Inherited Blood Disorders (Santa Ana, CA)

To learn more about the Community Access National Network or the newly

appointed 340B Commission, please visit http://tiicann.org.

About the Community Access National Network: The mission of the Community Access National Network (CANN) is to define, promote, and improve access to healthcare services and supports for people living with HIV/AIDS and/or Viral Hepatitis through advocacy, education, and networking. These services must be affordable to the people who need them regardless of insurance status, income, or geographic location.


Hospitalizations for seniors can be devastating, both financially and emotionally. But what’s worse is having to return to the hospital shortly after discharge – especially if the readmission could have been prevented.

All too often, this is precisely what happens: Roughly one in five Medicare patients discharged from the hospital ends up being readmitted within 30 days, at a cost to the federal government of $26 billion per year. The Medicare Payment Advisory Committee estimates up to 75 percent of these readmissions could have been prevented.

So what’s going on? Protecting seniors from avoidable readmissions to local hospitals is difficult. Far too often, hospitals discharge Medicare patients quickly to ensure that the hospital is not penalized by the federal government. The Medicare patient may receive home health services following the hospital discharge, but for a limited period. Often, the patient needs more care, but Medicare refuses to pay for it. In the end, the patient re-appears at the hospital emergency department because a transitional care program did not exist.

The impact on the senior cannot be measured in dollars and cents: far too often, their lives are devastated when re-hospitalized. Compounding the problem is the fact that fewer than 50 percent of patients see their primary care providers within two weeks of hospital discharge -- assuming they even have one.

The good news is that this can be fixed. The bad news is that Congress and state legislators aren’t making those fixes. If we hope to solve this problem, we’ll need to do so at the local or regional level. Legacy Health Endowment and Covenant Care at Home and Hospice have begun to do so.

Together, these organizations are launching a program, Transitional Care for Seniors (TCS), that provides targeted Medicare recipients with the care needed to ensure against the fear of rehospitalization, or worse, placement into a nursing home. The TCS program is designed to ensure coordination and continuity of health care as the Medicare patient transitions from hospital to home. The goal is simple: prevent healthcare complications and re-hospitalizations of seniors who are at high risk for readmission and who may experience one or more of the following conditions:

· Heart Failure

· Multiple admissions

· Multiple falls in the home or a fall with injury

· Lack of a primary care physician

The program is limited to people who fall into these categories because they present the greatest risk of re-entering the hospital. The senior would be eligible for assistance with a personal care aid, up to 10 hours of private duty nursing. This care can be implemented the first few hours after discharge when the senior is most vulnerable to falls and when Home Health has ended. There is no charge for the TCS program; charitable dollars are being used to ensure that people in need obtain the care necessary to help them stay in their homes. TCS is providing refuge from a healthcare system that failed them by ending services too soon.

America is long overdue in helping seniors avoid the fear of re-entering a hospital because services are not available. The TCS program illustrates how real solutions can be created in local communities.

Initially, this program will focus on patients suffering from heart failure. More than 6 million people in the U.S. suffer from heart failure, with approximately 800,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Research tells us that readmissions for heart failure patients, including those visiting hospital emergency departments, can be prevented through programs like TCS. Over time, we will update the communities across California and the nation on the positive impact of this program, the money saved and the lives helped.

The program will be available to people living within the Greater LHE Community, which covers 19 ZIP codes in Southern Stanislaus County and Merced County, including the communities of West Modesto, Ceres, Turlock, Newman, Patterson, Crows Landing, Hughson, Keyes, Gustine, Newman, Hilmar, Livingston, Stevinson, Atwater, Denair, Winton, Ballico and Delhi.

This is how philanthropy can be used as venture capital – reinvesting in communities and the people living there. Changing healthcare often amounts to one step at a time, building dignity back into the lives of seniors with grace and compassion.

turlock journal

Legacy Health Endowment (LHE) has teamed up with Covenant Care at Home (CCH), a nonprofit healthcare provider, to fund a critical new program to help senior citizens avoid premature placement or re-entry into hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities.

With a $110,000 grant from LHE, CCH is a launching a transitional care program to identify and assist Medicare-eligible seniors who are at risk of re-hospitalization.  The goal is to support seniors at a time of fragile health and to prevent re-hospitalization, keeping seniors safe and comfortable in their home environment.

Jeffrey Lewis, President, and CEO of LHE said, "No senior (or their family) should ever fear unnecessary re-entry into a hospital or other facility.  When communities implement Transitional Care programs, the value proposition far exceeds the costs of having a Medicare patient re-enter the hospital."

Lewis continued, "America is long overdue in helping seniors avoid the fear of re-entering a hospital because other services were not available.  Today, we put a stake in the ground and say no more!  If Congress won’t, we will create the solution right here - real solutions to change people’s lives in Stanislaus and Merced Counties.  The need is great, the time for action is now."

The new transitional care program was specifically created to help Medicare-eligible adults who are at high risk for re-hospitalization who may experience one or  more of the following:

  • Diagnosis of Heart Failure
  • Multiple hospital admissions
  • Multiple falls in the home or a fall with injury
  • Lack of a primary care physician

Once patients have exhausted their Medicare Home Health benefit, the transitional care program will fill the gap.  Eligible participants will have access to up to 10 hours of private duty nursing, access to personal care aides to assist them with activities of daily living, help filling their medications, and access to a primary care doctor if they do not have one.

Ronda Malmberg, Director of the CCH program, shared, "We are proud to work with LHE to bring this solution to our community.  No family should ever worry that care is not available or affordable. The LHE grant allows us to immediately address those fears.  We have worked with LHE over the past 12 months in developing this solution, and are grateful for the organization’s funding and support."

"We are partnering with Covenant Care at Home because they redefine value," said Jeffrey Lewis, President, and CEO of LHE. "Their team of providers takes caring to a new level.  It is more than a commitment to excellence. It is a contract with each transitional care patient for quality services, patient, and caring providers, and helping the Medicare recipient and their family know and understand help is just a phone call away.  Every day we wait for solutions, lives are lost, costs skyrocket, and people in need sit by a telephone. It is time we honor and respect older Americans. This is a valuable first step."

Turlock Unified School District’s first-ever mental health practitioners are already making a difference in students’ lives this school year, meeting the emotional and psychological needs of the district’s school sites.

Jennifer Carlsen and Darrah Wilson were introduced at the Feb. 20 Board of Trustees meeting as TUSD’s new Student Support Clinicians – a job title created after stakeholder surveys showed a real need for mental health support within the district.

Through the Local Control and Accountability Plan, TUSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Heidi Lawler said that the district received input “year after year” from stakeholders concerned with providing mental health services for students. The issue became a priority for the district, and a job description was developed

last spring.

Carlsen was the first clinician recruited by the district, and although TUSD had anticipated hiring just one, a $100,000 grant from the Legacy Health Endowment allowed them to add Wilson to the team as well.

“I just want to thank all the work that’s being done – we know there’s an incredible need out there,” said Trustee Frank Lima. “Thank you to Legacy Health for this grant which is incredibly significant. It will hopefully help us

pilot this program and learn how we can better serve our community, because we know we need it and see it

every day.”

Prior to hiring Carlsen and Wilson, TUSD provided academic counseling for grades 7-12, and partnered with the Center for Human Services to provide support for grades K-6. Various community organizations also offered their services to the district, including Jessica’s House, Prodigal Sons & Daughters, Tree House Club and CSUS Mentors.

Both Student Support Clinicians provide TK-6 site support, aid in the referral process and oversee the Clinical Assessment Resources and Engagement Program, or the CARE Program, which serves all nine elementary

school sites. This school year alone there have been 118 referrals, said Wilson, with 47 students currently in individual therapy.

“Those referrals have been coming in in either electronic form or in a paper form, and they really can come from anyone,” said Wilson. “We’ve gotten referrals from students, from parents, from administrators, from teachers, from yard duty staff – really from anybody who notices a need and really feels like they want to reach out on behalf of that student.”

Siblings have even referred each other, Wilson added, but no child receives one-on-one counseling until a parent, guardian or caretaker has given consent.

The Student Support Clinicians’ goal is to provide assessment for any mental health condition or diagnosis, and then to develop a treatment plan that would address those symptoms. This can include a referral to other supportive services, crisis intervention or simply providing consultation and education on mental health topics.

“We’ve found that we’re treating a wide range of issues – kids experiencing bullying, self-esteem issues, adjustment issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, grief – it’s really a broad spectrum,” said Carlsen.

Carlsen and Wilson also provide consultation for teachers and administration, participating in student intervention and special education meetings.

“When you have the training that we have, you’re able to identify things that might be going on that are a little more in depth than a learning issue or education issue,” said Carlsen. “I think we can provide a different viewpoint or different perspective.”

Lawler said that so far, the district has received nothing but positive feedback from those who have worked with Carlsen or Wilson. Moving forward, the pair hopes to integrate more social emotional learning by piloting a toolbox instruction learning experience in two classrooms at each school site, and would eventually like to provide services for students over the summer as well.

Board President Barney Gordon commended the two new clinicians for their work thus far.

“You’re doing probably some of the most difficult work in the district, but I’ll tell you right now, it’s absolutely important,” he said.

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Legacy Health Endowment (LHE) has teamed up with Turlock Pregnancy and Health Center (TPHC), a faith-based nonprofit free clinic, to fund a critical program to help people in need access free testing and treatment for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).

With a $100,000 grant from LHE, TPHC is launching a free STI program to help ensure that pregnant moms, women, and men know that free testing and treatment are available through TPHC.  The program is confidential.

The LHE funds will be used to underwrite the cost of buying the STI tests, including the costs of blood analysis and medication, where needed, if the person does not have prescription drug insurance.

Jeffrey Lewis, President and CEO of LHE said, “Sexually Transmitted Infections are on the rise in Stanislaus County and across the U.S.  While we thought Syphilis was eradicated ten years ago, there are now more reported cases.  We have a public health responsibility to help our community know that TPHC is a confidential source focused solely on providing excellent, free care to the patient.”

Tracey Benton, Acting Executive Director of the Turlock Pregnancy and Health Center said, “We are excited about the opportunity to work with Legacy Health Endowment (LHE).  They bring a great healthcare vision and insight to our community.  This STI program will help so many understand that local medical testing is available and free.  Our goal is to meet patients at their point of need, and educate them to be proactive in their sexual health.”

“We are partnering with TPHC because they bring great value to our community every day.  They underscore the value of working with faith-based programs that focus on the person, caring for them and helping.  What an incredible partner,” said Jeffrey Lewis, President and CEO of LHE.

Washington, D.C. is no longer the birthplace of creative healthcare solutions. Legacy Health Endowment, a healthcare foundation based in Turlock, CA, is creating real solutions for real problems, directly tackling the healthcare workforce shortages rural communities face. Learn more about their great work”.

Dr. Sudip Bose is one of America’s most experienced doctors in the medical arenas of emergency medicine, mass casualty, disaster care and PTSD. He is a former major in the US Army and an Iraq war veteran, and selected as the US physician who treated Saddam Hussein after his capture, for which he was honored as a “CNN Hero.”

Many rural and semi-rural communities, including California’s Central Valley, face significant healthcare shortages and a scarcity of healthcare providers. The problem isn’t new: For years it has been discussed, and for years little has changed.

Consequently, the likelihood of solving this problem appears bleak.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are opportunities to address these challenges locally, without waiting for Congress to act.

Across Merced and southern Stanislaus counties, access to medical care providers – including physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, physician specialists and other health professionals – remains scarce. Five important factors compound the problem:

First, we have a growing elderly population with an even larger 85-and-older cohort.

Second, as physicians retire, replacing them has become almost impossible. Patients struggle to find doctors, often having to wait 6 to 9 months for an appointment. As a result, Urgent Care Centers have become the new primary care homes for many.

Third, southern Stanislaus and Merced counties are becoming ethnic melting pots, populated by people who have arrived from across the globe. Creating a medically and culturally competent environment is critical if we are to address both their short- and long-term medical needs.

Fourth, the absence of mental health services is impacting people of all ages, particularly children in elementary schools. These children come from a variety of environments – including war-torn countries – with families struggling to meet daily needs.

Finally, we face a long-term care crisis. Families and individuals who do not qualify for Medi-Cal are struggling. The situation is particularly difficult for people with a spouse, parent or partner living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, who cannot afford respite or adult day care services due to prohibitively high costs – assuming these services are even available.

We cannot wait for state or congressional officials to solve our specific problems. So Legacy Health Endowment is tackling these problems head-on by building our own healthcare staffing solutions.

LHE provided a $1.6 million grant to Livingston Community Health to create a Nurse Practitioner program in partnership with the Stanislaus State School of Nursing – one of the top nursing schools in the country. This week, 24 nurse practitioner students launched the first cohort and will be ready to serve our community by December, 2019. Some $1 million of this grant will fund tuition relief for students who agree to live and work as nurse practitioners within the region served by Legacy Health for at least three years after graduation.

Legacy Health’s greater region covers 19 zip codes, including the communities of West Modesto, Ceres, Turlock, Newman, Patterson, Crows Landing, Hughson, Keyes, Gustine, Newman, Hilmar, Livingston, Atwater, Denair, Winton, Ballico and Delhi. These areas suffer from an acute shortage of medical providers.

Complementing our efforts is a $300,000 grant from the Stanislaus Community Foundation to support outreach to area high schools and career navigation as well as debt relief for nursing graduates, bringing the combined total gift to $1.9 million for the nurse practitioner program.

When philanthropy is used as venture capital to invest and re-invest in community-based solutions, things get done.

The healthcare workforce shortages, long-term care crisis and the overall health needs of the northern San Joaquin Valley constitute complex challenges. This program represents a first step in addressing at least one. Over the coming months, LHE will announce other initiatives focused on addressing challenges in mental health, long-term care and other healthcare needs.

The needs are too great. It is time for the rhetoric to stop and action to begin. Our plan begins now.

modesto bee

Local nonprofits are giving a $1.9 million boost to help solve the healthcare provider shortage in Stanislaus and Merced counties.

Legacy Health Endowment is working with and providing a $1.6 million grant to Livingston Community Health to help launch the Master’s Degree in Family Medicine (Nurse Practitioner Program) at Stanislaus State, as well as debt relief for nursing graduates.

Stanislaus Community Foundation is providing an additional $300,000 to support outreach to area high schools and career navigation.

“California State University, Stanislaus has one of the best nursing programs in the state. Building on that program and the expertise of the staff was a natural fit,” said LHE President and CEO Jeffrey Lewis.

“We could not be more grateful for this transformational gift, which will significantly enhance the Stanislaus State School of Nursing,” said Stan State President Ellen Junn. “Our University is here for the purpose of preparing our region’s workforce, and there is a great need for nurse practitioners in the Central Valley.”

A major part of this grant will fund tuition relief for students in the program who agree to live and work as nurse practitioners within the 19 zip codes served by Legacy Health Foundation (which includes Turlock, Patterson, Hughson, Livingston and Atwater, among others) for at least three years after graduation.

These areas suffer from an acute shortage of medical providers. A March 2017 report commissioned by LHE and prepared by Public Health Advocates found that only 43 percent of the need for nurse practitioners in the area is being provided. Research has shown that nurse practitioners play a key role in improving access to healthcare, allowing physicians’ offices to provide care to a greater number of patients.

The new degree program at Stanislaus State began this month with a total of 24 students, who are expected to graduate in December 2019. Lewis said that already nine students have shown interest in the debt relief program, and if they proceed with the grant, they will be required to live and work in the area for three years.

“We are honored to work with Legacy Health Endowment and begin to rebuild the healthcare infrastructure in Stanislaus and Merced counties. As we build programs to educate, retain and recruit physicians, it is also important to ensure that we recognize the value and importance that Nurse Practitioners can contribute,” said Livingston Community Health President Leslie McGowan.

The debt relief program also gives local children a greater opportunity to obtain a professional degree and use it for the benefit of their communities.

“Stanislaus Community Foundation views this partnership as the first step in addressing the healthcare needs of our residents. SCF also recognizes we need to build a coordinated education infrastructure to ensure that we have programs in place to educate our residents and provide access to well-paying and in-demand healthcare jobs,” said Marian Kaanon, President and CEO of Stanislaus Community Foundation.

Lewis said support of the Nurse Practitioner Program is just the first step in a series of things planned to address the healthcare shortage in the area.

“It’s time for the rhetoric to stop and action to occur,” he said.

Lewis said that where state and federal government has failed to address the infrastructure challenges and overall healthcare shortage, philanthropic collaborations can assist in creating change — a sentiment shared with McGowan.

“The future of healthcare in the Central Valley will not be solved in Washington, D.C. It will take the collaboration, vision and commitment that LHE and LCH can bring.”

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If you or someone you love are one of the millions of Americans with a chronic disease or a life-threatening condition, pharmaceutical manufacturers and their partners offer you a gift of hope this holiday season.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are often criticized as Scrooge or the Grinch in our country’s health care system. Elected officials and advocacy organizations want to blame somebody for rising Rx costs, and the most obvious target is the Big Pharma.

But in this blame game, very little attention is given to the help the pharmaceutical industry and its partners quietly provide to patients in need through a variety of programs.

Such programs are often based on the patient’s household income, but not always. Patients with no health insurance coverage are often the first group considered eligible.  Likewise, those with one or more chronic or life-threatening conditions are a high priority.

On most of these websites, you can be connected with a customer support team member who can help determine if you are eligible and get you enrolled. You will be asked to verify that you are insured or uninsured and, in some cases, provide proof of income. You may need your physician to validate your condition. But once approved, access to medication is granted almost immediately.

(Note: Patients enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid /Medi-Cal may not be eligible.)

Pharmaceutical manufacturers also offer co-pay assistance, in which the patient is offered help with the cost of medication copayments.  Some co-pay assistance programs do not limit who is eligible. And, it is important to know that some co-pay assistance programs will not help people on Medicare.  Each program sets its own rules.

This holiday season if you need help with your medications, you are not alone. Go to the websites cited throughout this article. They can help connect you with low cost and free alternatives. It is worth your time to explore these options. And, if you get frustrated, feel free to email me with your questions.

I spent some years proudly working in the United States Senate for three Republican senators. The world was different then. The desire to work on a bipartisan basis was never questioned. While not always followed, on meaningful healthcare legislation that impacted the lives of working families and the working poor, the focus was on what was in the nation’s best interest.

Today, healthcare issues are not a priority for some in the Republican leadership.

If it were, I would not be writing this and asking myself why does the Republican leadership in Congress want to deny ongoing healthcare for tens of thousands of Medi-Cal patients and working families in Merced and Stanislaus Counties, and millions across California?

Golden Valley Health Centers and Livingston Community Health are federally qualified health centers whose mission is to ensure the poor and all residents have access to affordable healthcare services – including adult care, pediatrics, dentistry, obstetrics, behavioral health counseling and affordable medications. Across the counties they serve thousands of patients every day.

Tony Weber and Leslie McGowan, the CEOs of these two companies are a common thing uncommonly well while meeting the needs of the patients in a culturally competent way. At GVHCs and LCH, no one is denied care. That’s an approach Congress simply seems to have forgotten.

The medical professionals at these clinics save lives every day. They reduce and prevent chronic diseases, provide affordable options for care other than costly hospital emergency rooms, and they have been on the front lines of the national health crises. For many families in the Central Valley, they are the only healthcare providers available.

Together, they provide a safety net to keep our communities healthier – to ensure children are vaccinated; to protect the elderly from fear of having to go to a nursing home, and by delivering medical and social services to our most vulnerable neighbors, friends, and family. They don’t focus on politics, just people.

The future stability of Golden Valley and Livingston is being challenged. They operate on mostly federal funds.

But the legislation to re-authorize funding for GVHCs, LCH and other health centers across California and the nation has been stymied by the Congressional Republican leadership. Why? Because it is not a priority.

With every day that goes by, we prepare for the worst – possible budget cuts to these critical centers.

Ironically, every elected official I have ever met supports FQHCs. They understand the value they deliver.

Today, poor and working-class families are pawns in the Congressional budget debate. Maybe it’s payback for the benefits gained under the Affordable Care Act. Maybe it’s a new level of meanness directed at people they think won’t vote.

Regardless of the reasoning, Golden Valley Health Centers and Livingston Community Health will continue to serve every patient.

But we worry. If health care centers like GVHCs and LCH do not exist, or lose millions in funding because Congress decides to cut their budgets, where will these patients find healthcare? Are the nation’s most vulnerable expected to flood hospital emergency rooms again?

If Congress needs an economic argument, here’s one: Federally Qualified Health Centers employ more than

30,000 people across California and thousands more through indirect employment. One study shows health centers are saving an average of $2,371 – or 24 percent – in total spending per Medicaidpatient when compared

to other providers.

Health centers are not just another healthcare program. They serve about 1 of every 5 residents in Merced County – many of whom vote.

Healthcare should never be marginalized. When we fail to care for those most in need, we fail ourselves and

our nation.

As a society, each of us is challenged every day.  Our children face challenges that much greater.  The forces of evil pulling at them are relentless.  And, with the legalization of recreational marijuana, over time the proponents will come to understand how this will devastate future generations of children and adults.

Today, the average child must balance the demands of being like their peers vs. what they believe, intuitively, to be right.  They are seeing peers experimenting with marijuana, alcohol, heroin and other drugs.

Add to this the gender challenges that many children face. Pre-teens who self-identify as they seek acceptance, trying to understand their own bodies while too often unable to speak with a parent or religious leader about

their feelings.

The teenage years have always been tough.  Rare is the person who escaped this time without drama. While most survive unscathed, the experiences of the teen years greatly influence our behavior and our process of thinking, and can have an impact on us that lasts the rest of our lives.

Sometimes, a child’s environment can send him or her down a path of immense suffering.  Abuse, the death of a parent, divorce, being jilted by a girlfriend or boyfriend – these events may drive some to escape through the pain-numbing salve of drugs or alcohol. Others may simply be looking for acceptance.  You sprinkle a little guilt on top of this and the road less traveled becomes one more frequented.

Why is this an important topic to discuss?  Summer is upon us and with school out, children are spending more time alone.  It is important to be aware of what your child is doing every day.  This is very personal to me because my friend Jonathan was one of these kids.  The product of a divorce, he felt responsible for what happened – though of course he was not.  He sought comfort in drugs.  It started with marijuana and escalated into harder drugs. In the end, he became addicted to crystal meth and his life became completely unmanageable.

His relationships with family and friends suffered or completely evaporated.  Over time, this impacted his ability to find a job, even one that was part time.  His self-respect and dignity were eaten away by the drugs.  And, his addiction to crystal meth led him to prostitution. Somewhere, in the middle of all that, he became HIV-positive. Testing HIV-positive completely shattered Jonathan.  Fortunately, he eventually found help, but it took a long time and he’ll never regain those years.  Today, I’m happy to say he is drug and alcohol free, celebrating his first year

of sobriety.

As a nation, we have forgotten about the Jonathans of the world.  But, in Turlock and other rural and semi-rural communities, we have kids who are experimenting -- because they can.

Prodigal Sons and Daughters sees kids like Jonathan every day.  They go there because of its reputation as a safe-haven – a place where the staff will not judge, but will instead speak with them as people.  They treat the soul, spirit and heart of the individual.  Their counselors offer kids a hand up, not a hand out.

The organization is led by Pastor Amanda Oppenhuizen, an exceptional person, professional and mom.  She spends time with each young person who walks through the door offering hope and help -- no speeches, no hell and damnation – just a caring hand.  Amanda and her team of counselors provide as much healing as someone is willing to accept.  And they do it one person at a time. Prodigal offers an oasis in Turlock.  Pastor Amanda Oppenhuizen is a gift, a friend and a spiritual leader.

Encourage your children to spend an hour with Pastor Amanda and the team at Prodigal.  I have, and every time I am with them, my spirit is reborn and reenergized.  Imagine what she can do for a hurting child.

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In healthcare, when you find someone who is incredibly competent and smart, cares deeply about her patients and places their well-being above all else, you know you have found a very special person indeed. That is Dr. Betty Lopez, the Chief Nurse Executive at Sutter Memorial in Modesto.

What makes Betty such an exceptional nurse and healthcare professional? Five things:

First, Betty has perfected the art of listening. She has a reputation as someone who will listen to the patient and to the patient’s loved ones before speaking her own thoughts, giving them as much time as they need to be heard. She is just as willing to listen to colleagues and staff – without prejudging them or making snap decisions – and for this, they respect her deeply. Betty listens first, considers what has been said, values this input and only then decides. She will then go the next step by explaining why she made it.

Second, she respects all of the people with whom she works – whether they are nurses, doctors, specialists or certified nursing assistants. She makes a point of telling them how incredibly valuable they are to her, to the patient and to the organization, letting them know that without them, the hospital would not exist.

Third, Betty’s passion for her profession is unmatched. She is a strong advocate for utilizing nurses to their full scope of practice and for making sure that evidence based practices are used to guide the clinical care

nurses provide.

Fourth, Betty’s dedication to the organization and the people who work here. She is a true servant leader. She takes pride in the work that she does and has the upmost integrity. She makes sure to put the patient in the middle of every decision made.

Finally, she challenges herself every day to be better than she was the day before. She is never afraid to admit she has made a mistake and learns from her missteps when they occur, because she believes learning is a

continuous process.

Betty completed her doctoral degree while juggling a family, a marriage and a more-than-full-time job, because it was personally and professionally important to her. She wants other Latina women to see that no achievement is out of reach. If she can do it – so, too, can they.

As a wife, mother, friend and professional, Betty learned the importance of juggling chaos with a smile whether at home or at work. And, because she respects herself, she understood the importance of self-care. She is mindful that education not only informs, it can nourish the soul.

Finally, Dr. Betty Lopez is wonderfully humble. She grew up working on a farm with parents who instilled in her the importance of working hard, constantly learning and never, ever, being afraid to challenge herself. She is a person of strong faith, who believes that she has been given the tools to heal people, so she uses those skills every day in the world of caring.

Dr. Betty Lopez is an exceptional person and professional. If I ever got sick, I would want Dr. Betty Lopez on my team, helping to guide my healing and recovery.

turlock journal

Rising drug prices are one of the top three health care challenges we face today. Considering that President Donald Trump and state elected leaders in California and across the country have voiced concern over this growing problem, it is baffling that the issue was absent from policy discussions during the Congressional “repeal and replace” effort.

No country spends as much per capita on health care as the United States. Health care spending in the U.S. is more than twice the average of all other developed nations. One of the major contributors is

the rising cost of prescription drugs, which today accounts for roughly 17 percent of all U.S. health

care spending.

The “repeal and replace” effort simply ignored what is a growing nonpartisan crisis: the impact of rising prescription drug prices on working men and women. This is a pure pocketbook issue. Costs are stopping families from filling or refilling medications.

Some argue that importing prescriptions from Canada, where prices are lower, could solve this problem. But this solution is not without risks. There’s no way to certify the efficacy of prescription medications being shipped from Canada, or anywhere else.

Other attempts to make prescriptions more affordable have been piecemeal at best. For example, pharmaceutical companies offer assistance through two vehicles – Patience Assistance Programs and co-pay cards – designed to increase access to medications for those who cannot afford them. But these programs are not widely marketed and some elected officials have shortsightedly sought to eliminate them altogether.

Patient Assistance Programs were created by pharmaceutical companies to help the uninsured access needed medications at no charge or for a small co-pay; they have grown to include many whose insurance fails to adequately cover expensive medication for chronic diseases. The goal of these programs is to ensure that Americans don’t have to choose between buying food and filling prescriptions, or live with the fear that their illness may lead to bankruptcy.

For people who have insurance but an inadequate prescription plan, co-pay cards can be used to lower costs by reducing or eliminating out-of-pocket costs. A co-pay is the fixed amount that insurance companies ask consumers to pay toward their medication or other health services. They often reduce the level of co-pay or cover the cost entirely.

Poor people have access to free or almost-free medications from Medi-Cal. Yet some elected officials want to legislate whether and how middle class families can access Patient Assistance Programs and co-pay cards.

In the absence of a more comprehensive effort to improve health care and lower costs, elected officials should at least work with pharmaceutical companies to ensure their constituents know about the availability of these free and/or subsidized programs.

Programs that help working families access critical medications should have the support of every elected official. Both public and private sector employees can benefit, as can employers who will reap the savings from having healthier employees who are better able to manage their chronic illnesses. This may include CALPERS and CALSTRS. Everyone wins.

It is long past time that pharmaceutical companies launch a statewide effort in California to educate every resident about Patient Assistance Programs, co-pay cards and other low-cost solutions to the high cost of prescription drugs. This one bold step could save working families hundreds or thousands of dollars.

The need is great. We cannot wait for Congress.

But, will the pharmaceutical industry stand up and help?

modesto bee

Twenty-Six years ago, this week, United States Senator John Heinz was tragically killed – a grievous loss not only for his family but also for our country.  While his family suffered immeasurably, the nation lost one Republican Member of Congress who clearly understood and cared about the needs of working families. In Washington DC, across Pennsylvania and throughout America, he championed the importance of helping families in need, particularly those with disabled children and aging adult parents and grandparents.

Few of America’s political leaders understood as clearly as John Heinz that the fabric of the nation would be strengthened if working men and women had the resources to care for their families, regardless of size, gender, race or ethnicity.

He believed that given the tremendous financial and emotional strains of caring for loved ones, the federal government had a specific role to help protect them from famine, financial despair and having to choose between buying their medications or their dinner.  In many ways, John Heinz was a renaissance man whose work transcended political ideologies and recognized the needs of the nation, old and young.

Today, 26 years later, Congress is mired in an indifference to working families. With increasing numbers of women leaving the work force to care for a disabled child or aging parent and Congress continuing to sit on the sidelines watching this, informal caregiving is on the rise- at a hefty cost to working class families.

Families with a disabled child or aging parent that qualifies for Medicaid they receive help – and that is important.  But the needs of middle class families continue to grow, and Congress is failing to address their concerns – inaction that Senator Heinz would find unacceptable for both political parties.

While campaigning for President, then candidate Donald Trump proposed a child care plan that would allow working families to deduct the costs of child care from their federal taxes.  This plan should be front and center when the White House and Capitol Hill undertake tax reform.

The Trump proposal acknowledges that helping families care for children is very important, that we have reached a critical point in this nation’s history where we are being forced to balance the needs of children against the growing needs of senior citizens and the families that care for them.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the value of family and other informal caregiving services is was over $200 billion, But, when women take time off from work, they accumulate lots of zero’s. They contribute $0 to Social Security, costing them an estimated $64,000 in benefits. They get $0 wages and pension contributions, an estimated loss of $130,000. The accumulate zero vacation time and zero credit from their employers for caring for the family.  And, in the end, women live longer than men having left the workplace to serve as a caregiver penalizes them further.

To reform the nation’s tax system is important.  But cutting taxes alone does not help family caregivers.  If Senator Heinz could be a part of coming debate on tax reform, I believe he would insist that we recognize the value and importance of these people – mostly women – and honor their work. We could do so by taking two important steps: giving them partial Social Security credits as they serve as caregiver, and by expanding the Medicare Home Health program with coverage for respite care.

Senator Heinz referred to these women (and men) as part of the nation’s “shadow” caregivers, “those who too often are the unrecognized but critical bastions of support for millions of Americans with a chronic disorder.”

That was Senator Heinz – a Republican with a heart who understood the needs of the average person, the person he fought for every day of his public service. His voice is sorely missed in Pennsylvania, Congress and across

the nation.

Jeffrey Lewis was the Republican Staff Director for the Senator.  He now serves as the president and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment in California.  The views expressed are his own.

More than 1 million Californians have gained health care under Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, created under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

President Trump’s effort to repeal and replace Obamacare may have failed in Congress, but it did succeed in reigniting discussion of how best to provide health care to all Americans. California should seize the opportunity

to create a unique, affordable, state-specific health insurance program best suited to meet the needs of its

diverse population.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s actions to strengthen the Medi-Cal program and build Covered California have helped millions of Californians gain health care. However, this system relies upon federal matching funds, without which the state would be on the hook for billions of dollars to keep the program sustainable. At least six obstacles stand in the way of the state coming up with those funds on its own:

1 California’s infrastructure (roads, highways, bridges) desperately needs funding. Potholes are often given Band-Aid repairs rather than substantial fixes because cities and counties don’t have the money to rebuild the roads on their own. With a renewed focus on California’s transportation needs, state leaders will feel more public pressure to use general-fund money on road repairs.

2 The call for more public education dollars from kindergarten through college will not stop, as the number of college-age students completing their degrees with substantial debt continues to grow.

3 Many middle-class Californians do not qualify for affordable health plans through Covered California, and the cost of private health insurance has grown increasingly out of reach. The Legislature cannot continue to help the poor while overlooking the middle class.

4 The mental health crisis facing California communities and schools, beginning as early as the elementary-school years, is slowly being unmasked. Over time, this will likely lead to increased pressure on budgets at the state and local levels.

5 A growing number of Californians rely upon high-cost specialty medications. While less than 2 percent of the U.S. population took these drugs in 2015, they represent 37 percent of the nation’s drug spending today. By 2018, the figure is expected to reach 50 percent.

6 California’s population is growing older. Lower-income seniors utilize far more services than all other age groups. Middle-income retirees are often desperate for help but lack access to affordable, community-based, long-term-care services. Elderly couples in which one spouse has a severe disability and/or Alzheimer’s disease often deplete their resources after decades of saving and paying their taxes.

These challenges place significant pressure on California’s state budget. But as the late Pennsylvania Sen. John Heinz often said, “every problem is an opportunity waiting to happen.” That is the view the Legislature and the governor should take.

If they don’t, California — like every other state in the nation — will remain on a collision course in which the primary-care needs of the poor will do battle with the long-term-care needs of the middle-class aged and disabled.

California has a unique opportunity to lead the nation in tackling this issue, beginning with a bipartisan dialogue committed to delivering outcomes that will improve Californians’ health and quality of life.

For example, our state leaders could negotiate a partnership with the federal government and the private sector — something no other state has attempted. The state could assume full fiscal responsibility for the primary-care needs of its residents, or for the long-term-care needs of disabled and/or of residents 65 and older. Attempting to care for both populations will not work. The needs are too great, the costs too high, and the demands for the same dollars are unsustainable.

Government has an important role to play: It must protect families from going broke as a result of rapidly escalating health care costs, help them care for aged and/or disabled relatives in their homes, and recognize that individuals who leave the workforce to care for an aging parent or relative deserve some type of tax relief for doing so.

If Congress cannot create a better health plan for America, then perhaps California can step up and find solutions of its own.

Jeffrey Lewis is the president and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment, which works to improve health and wellness in Stanislaus and Merced counties. The views expressed are his own.

Get involved:

Contact your state legislator, and say: The state must create a California long-term care commission to address the needs of every Californian, regardless of income, and say how the programs would be paid for.

To find your legislator, go to http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.

The Legacy Health Endowment is providing $550,000 in grant funding to promote health and wellness in Stanislaus and Merced counties.

These are the first grants awarded by the foundation, which was created in 2014 by Tenet Healthcare’s acquisition of Emanuel Medical Center of Turlock, which was then a nonprofit hospital. The foundation will distribute its funding in Emanuel’s former service area including west Modesto, the Turlock area, western Stanislaus County and part of Merced County.

Catholic Charities will receive $125,000 to fund homemaker services for the elderly and disabled. Individuals

who struggle to remain independent can receive help with home repairs and safety improvements, or they

could benefit from counseling, physical activity, respite care, help with preparing meals and transportation

to appointments.

Jeffrey Lewis, Legacy’s chief executive officer, said the goal of the Catholic Charities program is for residents to remain in their homes as long as possible.

Another $125,000 grant will support adult day services at Castle Family Health Centers in Atwater. People with age-related impairments receive therapeutic and social services at the Day Break adult day service program, which also allows family caregivers to work or take a break from 24/7 care.

Lewis said the funding for Day Break services will help 10 families that are not eligible for the Medi-Cal program.

The endowment also is giving $300,000 to promote wellness among employees who work for community health clinics. Golden Valley Health Centers and Livingston Community Health each will receive $150,000 over two years.

The grants aim to reduce employee turnover caused by chronic illness. Residents of the San Joaquin Valley suffer from higher rates of diabetes, asthma and heart disease than in other areas of California, and that takes a toll on patients as well as health care providers.

Lewis said the foundation’s 13-member board will continue to consider how charitable dollars can address the problems and shortcomings of health care in the region, such as nursing shortages and the difficulties of

recruiting physicians.

The Legacy endowment hopes to award $400,000 to $1 million in grant funds every year.

Another issue that could be addressed is the lack of mental health professionals and services for children and adults who suffer from mental disorders, Lewis said.

To inquire about homemaker services for seniors and the disabled, the Modesto office of Catholic Charities can be reached at 209-529-3784. The Day Break adult day service in Atwater can be reached at 209-357-0765.

modesto bee

Legacy Health Endowment, the health care philanthropy created in 2014 as a result of the sale of Emanuel Medical Center to Tenet Health, announced its first grant awards to four local health and wellness programs.  A total of $550,000 was awarded to Catholic Charities, Castle Family Health Centers, Golden Valley Health Center and Livingston Health Clinics to address health needs such as adult day health care, chronic disease and homemaker services for the elderly and disabled.

“These grants underscore the breadth of the value that philanthropy can deliver to the communities it serves over and over again. The LHE Board and I are committed to doing our part to increase access to healthcare, thereby improving the quality of life for people throughout our two-county jurisdiction,” said LHE President and CEO

Jeffrey Lewis.

Golden Valley Health Centers and Livingston Community Health each received $150,000 to implement a Legacy Health wellness initiative to decrease obesity and chronic disease in the workplace. This two-year grant funds a wellness program for employees at Golden Valley Health Centers and Livingston Community Health in hopes of reducing employee turnover and absenteeism due to work-life imbalances and health issues related to chronic disease conditions (diabetes, asthma, congestive heart failure, etc.).

Catholic Charities’ Homemaker Services received $125,000 to provide services for elderly and disabled residents in the 11 zip codes that Legacy Health serves in Stanislaus County. The funding will provide approximately 2,500 hours of expanded homemaker services, which include home repairs, home safety modifications, counseling, socialization, physical activity, transportation to appointments, respite care, meal preparation, companionship, home medication screening, and so on.

Castle Family Health Centers’ Adult Day Services in Atwater received $125,000 to provide therapeutic, social and health services for elderly and other adults with physical or mental impairments through their Day Break program. The grant will support individuals who have no access to any third-party coverage and will allow the eligible participant to receive all of the various programs offered within the facility anywhere from three to five days per week for up to a full year.

Lewis said these grant awards are the first steps in Legacy Health Endowment’s goal of improving health and wellness within the 19 zip codes of Stanislaus and Merced counties that fall within its jurisdiction.

Lewis said he and the Legacy Health Board of Trustees focused their efforts by asking: How do you protect the family? How do you help them deal with aging in America?

“We looked at how to intervene with philanthropy dollars to assist the community to know there are solutions,”

he said.

The programs that LHE is sponsoring are for those who don’t qualify for Medi-Cal and for services that aren’t covered under Medicare.

“There is a growing aging population in both counties and a lack of services for middle class America, and in some cases the poor,” said Lewis.

The next focus for Legacy Health will be addressing the growing physician and nursing shortages in Stanislaus and Merced counties and tackling specific community health concerns, such as diabetes.

“We are hopeful that the work done through Legacy Health Endowment can ultimately serve as a model for other regions of California seeking to improve health and wellness in their communities,” Lewis said.

turlock journal

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has never been a high-profile agency, but it now has a high-profile Secretary in renowned neurosurgeon and one-time presidential candidate Ben Carson. Some see Carson’s lack of experience in housing policy as a shortcoming.  But with no policy legacy to defend (and no political axes to grind), Carson is ideally positioned to champion the kind of creative, non-partisan, pragmatic solutions that low and moderate income Americans desperately need.

In particular, Dr. Carson has a unique opportunity to change the landscape of urban and rural housing for the elderly. He can do this by demonstrating how housing and medical care clinics can be fused into a single solution to ensure that residents also have access to needed care. And to assist frail seniors, Dr. Carson should implement programs that provide “Care assistance workers” to allow them to maximize their independence.

The housing crisis facing American seniors is horrific. By 2024, the rapidly aging Baby Boomers will add roughly 9 million senior households with income under $30,000 to the demographic mix. Retirees are outliving their single-family homes and desperate to find affordable alternatives that for the most part don’t exist—an area of housing policy that the Trump Administration could champion to help middle class retirees.

A good place to start would be reviving HUD’s Section 202 program, which was gutted by Congress in 2011.  This public-private partnership used capital grants and rental assistance to boost private construction of affordable housing for seniors.  At its peak, the program created 20,000 units per year, and more than 250,000 of these units continue to provide housing for older adults.

Shutting down Section 202 widened a growing gap in affordable housing options for seniors.  As of 2011, 3.9 million low-income older adults were eligible for housing assistance, but only 1.4 million actually received it. Wait times for assisted senior housing now stretch past 2 to 3 years, and shortages will only deepen and wait times will only lengthen from here.

A creative revival of Section 202 would allow the Trump Administration to address three inter-connected challenges, and demonstrate how changing the urban and rural housing landscape can also boost economic development by creating new jobs in the building and construction trades and  necessitating a whole new army of care workers to help these elderly and disabled Americans remain independent.

First, a revitalized Section 202 would meet the affordable housing needs for millions of American seniors. Roughly 30 percent of older renters and 23 percent of those with mortgages spend more than half their income on housing, putting immense pressure on household finances, raising the specter of homelessness and jeopardizing access to necessities like medical care and food.

Section 202 would meet this demand by encouraging private construction of affordable homes designed around the unique needs of older adults. Such homes can be difficult to find – 40 percent of housing in the U.S. lacks basic accessibility features like no-step entry and single-floor design. A Section 202 community also combats social isolation, decreasing the risk of memory loss, stroke, and heart disease.

Second, a revived Section 202 program would enable older adults to receive care at home:  the cheaper and preferred option to meet care needs. Nearly 70 percent of adults over 65 will require assistance to care for themselves at some point, and professional in-home care is half as expensive as a room in a nursing home. Given that 90 percent of seniors say they want to live at home for as long as possible, Section 202 housing could grant this wish for hundreds of thousands of older Americans, who would otherwise be forced to choose between no care or more expensive, publicly provided care.

Third, by increasing access to care at home, a new Section 202 program would help reduce overall healthcare costs.  As America ages, Social Security and Medicare expenditures are projected to grow from 8 percent to 12 percent of GDP by 2050. The affordable housing/care at home combination can help reduce the pinch of

these increases.

Currently, just 13 percent of care at home is financed by government, compared to 60 percent of nursing home care. Care at home would also help to reduce costly hospitalizations resulting from inconsistent levels of care and medical emergencies. In 2008 alone, it’s estimated the U.S. saved as much as $25 billion in hospital costs due to the growth of care at home.

A revived Section 202 program is exactly the kind of non-partisan, forward-looking, common sense solution that older adults need and Americans of all parties want to see out of Washington.  And for a new Administration coming into office at historic lows, it allows Dr. Carson and President Trump to reach across the aisle and demonstrate forward thinking, and demonstrate to middle-class retirees that their President is listening.

Covenant Care at Home is an amazing place primarily because of the people who work there. Each has learned the Malmberg approach to caregiving — treat the patient as a family member and remember that this could be you. The staff embrace their highs and lows with the same level of commitment and caring. Led by Ronda Malmberg and an incredible team of women and men, they bring quality care to patients, one at a time, at home. One outstanding team member is Jill Chiesa.

Jill began as a volunteer at Covenant Care at Home and eventually accepted the challenge of serving as a full time Bereavement Coordinator. She serves Hospice families and patients and is reaching into the community to provide bereavement services outside of her job. Jill has also accepted the tough task of debriefing nurses.

Hospice care is comprised of two parts: palliative care and traditional hospice care. Traditional hospice care is designed to offer comfort care without curative options. Palliative care provides those with a serious or chronic illness once diagnosed and throughout the course of treatment care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing and managing suffering. Jill is joined by a team of Covenant Care at Home palliative professionals who help address everything from medical care to medications to the spiritual needs of the patient.

As you can imagine, it is not easy working with people who are aware of their impending death. It takes very special people like Jill and her colleagues.

One of the things that makes Jill particularly amazing is that she cares for the hospice nurses in addition to caring for their patients. Jill makes sure that the hospice nurses have someone to talk with so they can channel their fears, frustrations and grief. What I refer to as an in-house caretaker – caring for everyone from patients to colleagues and families. A skill we all wished we had, but then again it is rare to meet a Jill.

Jill spends a large part of her time on the phone calling, listening and becoming a companion to bereaved

family members.

And, she goes one step further – by helping the spouse understand their wife, husband or partner is now watching them a skill she provides in both English and Spanish. As an exceptional listener, Jill becomes a companion to people in grief, listening while walking alongside them.

Dying is by itself precarious. Patients are struggling to free of pain. Families are caught between the unknown and uncertainties. Everyone is looking for answers – everyone is looking for hope. Most know that Jill will always be there to listen for however long.

Described by those that know and respect her, Jill is one of the humblest people you will ever meet. She knows that people open their hearts at their most vulnerable time. She has redefined loyalty and kindness by what

she does.

With the care of an angel and the courage of a lion, Jill will tackle any problem to help someone who is grieving. A rare person and an incredible professional. Jill Chiesa is a healthcare hero.

turlock journal


California State University, Stanislaus has one of the top 10 Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs in the United States.  There are three reasons.  First, the Director, Dr. Debra Tavernier, is an incredible leader due to her brilliance, passion and an unwavering commitment to excellence.  Second, the faculty at the nursing school is second to none.  Their practical experience, passion and commitment to excellence in education are unmatched.  Each brings experience and expertise into the class room to ensure that students graduate prepared to start immediately as well trained Registered Nurses.  The third and final reason the CSUS Nursing program is top-of-the-line is its amazing healthcare information technology hero, James Bowles.  James is part of the team that helped CSU Stanislaus gain a national reputation for excellence.  He’s been a well-kept secret, until now.

Bowles is a very unusual IT guy. He served in the United States Army for 11 years and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant serving as a Healthcare Specialist, Civil Affairs Team - Senior Medic, an Armor Crewman and a Gunner during his military service to the United States. He also served as Senior Medic during joint training desert survival training with the French Army in 2008.  His military experience provided him with a unique and important perspective on the importance of healthcare training.  This know-how established a foundation for ensuring that BSN students graduate with diverse training; when patients are not available, students have the most up to date simulation experience and knowledge that prepares them for whatever comes their way.

 Bowles began his career at the CSUS School of Nursing in December 2015 in the role of Simulation/Laboratory Technician.  His role?  To support the nursing students learning in the Human Patient Simulation Learning Laboratories.  Bowles’ vast and varied world experiences in healthcare and the military brought a new team member to the School of Nursing, who added a piece of the education puzzle that was missing: the use of simulation technology as an educational tool.  He has nine years experience working in information technology developing and implementing simulations for trauma training purposes at various Medical Simulation Training Centers for Medics.  His unique experiences made him the ideal candidate for working with faculty member Wendy Matthew, who coordinates the Simulation Center.

 “James is intuitive, bright and the ultimate team player whose efforts make the School of Nursing simulation experience invaluable for the students and the faculty. One of his most admirable traits is that he works diligently behind the scenes to make us look great and doesn’t expect any extra recognition for his contributions to

student learning. Without his wisdom and insight, the simulation center would be missing much,”  shared

Director Tavernier.

You might ask why “simulation” is so important to educating nurses.  It is an evidence-based strategy in creating high-quality and transformational student learning experiences across clinical settings and along the continuum of care. Simulation allows the opportunity for situated cognition — learning in context that promotes experiential learning through the replication of clinical practice situations.

Changes in access to and technological advances in healthcare delivery have contributed to the increasing complexity of patient care; a growing lack of clinical placements for students in general and in particular specialty areas; and the need for innovation in creating high quality learning experiences outside of the clinical setting. These factors are all drivers in considering the increased utilization of

healthcare simulation.

Today’s educators must be prepared to integrate quality simulation experiences that foster critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills in undergraduate and graduate education. This shift requires that nurse educators have the requisite knowledge, skills and resources to use simulation to its full potential. Learner self-reflection is foundational to all simulation methods which promotes learning and requires educators to be trained and skilled in creating effective student debriefing opportunities.

Bowles is a Healthcare Hero to the students who benefit from his expertise and to each of us who knows that when these women and men serve as Registered Nurses they will have received state of the art training.

turlock journal

If you do not know Renee Pimentel, you should. While not a household name she is a healthcare hero.

Her primary position is Director of Emergency Services at Emanuel Medical Center, but that is only one of her jobs. Renee is that amazing professional who juggles multiple jobs, varied family and community responsibilities, but never loses her focus on what matters most: quality patient care.

Renee has been a licensed Nurse Practitioner since 2009, and prior to that worked as a registered nurse. She received her Nurse Practitioner’s degree from Sonoma State University, and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Holy Names University, Stanislaus. She has always believed that education is one of the pillars of learning. Clearly this is a family trait because her husband, Jerry, also has an advanced medical degree. He is a licensed Physician’s Assistant.

There are three qualities that distinctly define Renee: quality patient care, the unrelenting pursuit of understanding the “why" and family.

Quality patient care is part of the fabric of who Renee is. While she is Director of Emergency Services (the Emergency Room) at Emanuel, she has a reputation for rolling up her sleeves to help with an over- crowded emergency department. To her, excellent patient care is what matters most, and is the one quality that people you talk with say is synonymous with Renee.

However, people admire and respect Renee in and outside the hospital setting. When Renee is not working at Emanuel, she is using her Nurse Practitioner skills at an urgent care clinic or elsewhere. Her goal is a simple one: offer care to those in need recognizing that sometimes care is simply listening. As one physician shared with me when asked about Renee, she has these amazing intuitive abilities — the skillfulness to listen to what the patient is saying and not, and the medical understanding to probe to ensure the patient ultimately feels comfortable sharing everything. This is a quality you cannot teach someone – they either possess it or not. Renee redefines excellence in patient care.

The quality of Renee the person is best described as that daughter who wraps care and love into a single package. As her parents are aging, Renee and her husband decided it was important for mom and dad to live with them. They expanded the house to accommodate them, and in doing so, sent a quiet but subtle message to the community and their friends. No aging parent should ever fear that a nursing home is right around the corner. Rather, she personifies the belief that as my parents cared for me, it’s my turn to care for them. Renee is that person who would simply never betray a promise.

Family for Renee is a love. The mother of seven children and four and a half grandchildren, family has always been at the core of defining Renee. Not always easy, but unwavering. Her commitment to family has never sputtered to an end, she has refused to ever let that flame extinguish.

In all of our lives, the bridge of time is not always kind, but for Renee she simply refused to let anything stop her pursuit of quality care for patients, being a mom, a friend and a wife. She always has that cheerful optimism, and for those in need, time to listen. That’s why Renee Pimentel is a healthcare hero.

turlock journal