The History of MHA
The following is a brief history of the collaboration between the member organizations that set the stage for the conception of the Mendonoma Health Alliance (MHA), a rural healthcare network.
Since 1990, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital (SRMH) has served as the base station for Coast Life Support District (CLSD) emergency personnel, providing medical direction and oversight. SRMH has also provided medical consultation services for Redwood Coast Medical Services (RCMS) urgent care since 2015.
In 1995, the communities in the coastal regions of southern Mendocino County and northern Sonoma County voted a special tax through CLSD to contract for providing urgent care services after normal clinic hours at RCMS. This was the beginning a twenty-year relationship between the two organizations that has significantly improved the quality of life for the community and enabled increased opportunity for jointly developed medical services.
In 2014, voters again passed an initiative to increase availability and assure sustainability of urgent care services through a community supported quadrupling of the urgent care tax with an astounding favorable vote of nearly 70%.
In May 2014, CLSD and RCMS executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) forming a Joint Operating Group (JOG) to provide general oversight and policy direction for the urgent care program. Moreover, the JOG identified a secondary goal of helping CLSD and RCMS jointly develop and start executing a longer-term vision for additional medical services needed and desired by the community.
In April 2015, SRMH informally joined the partnership and a strategic planning session with all three organizations was conducted in September 2015 with an overall goal of improving health and health care services in the designated RCMS and CLSD service area. The partnership was focused on collaborating to achieve efficiencies and to strengthen the rural health care system to better serve this frontier area.
In June 2016, RCMS was awarded a federal Rural Health Network Development Planning grant by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Representatives from RCMS, CLSD, and SRMH, along with several community members, collaborated in a year-long strategic planning process to establish an infrastructure for, and identify and prioritize the steps needed to expand access to, coordinate, and improve the quality of health care services in this isolated region of the Mendonoma coastline.
In October 2016, these longstanding and successful relationships were formalized when RCMS, CLSD, and SRMH executed an MOU to establish the Mendonoma Health Alliance. In 2017, MHA filed Articles of Incorporation of a Nonprofit Benefit Corporation with the Secretary State of California. MHA is currently in the process of becoming a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
On July 1, 2017, MHA was notified of two grant awards by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, a department of HRSA. One of these grants provides three years of funding to support the implementation of core programs and initiatives focused on improving local access to wellness education, prevention services, and quality healthcare access for residents in the MHA service area. The second grant funded another year-long strategic planning process, this time specifically for exploring telemedicine options in the Mendonoma region. MHA continues to develop programming and work with other community organizations to explore opportunities to improve health care services and overall population health.
Thank you to all of the individuals who have been instrumental in collaboration between these organizations over the years, and especially to those who were part of the 2016-2017 strategic planning process for MHA: Alex Long, Barbara Fast, Dan Schurman, David Caley, Geoff Beaty, Diane Agee, Don Kemp, Jaynie Boren, Kathy White, Leslie Tittle, Mark Kal, Matthew Forman, Morgan Jolley, Rich Hughes, Rich Perry, Sheila Nolan, Steven Winningham, Todd Salnas, and Tuck Bierbaum.
MHA would also like to extend a very special ‘thank you’ to Bonnie Noble for nurturing the vision for MHA and cultivating that vision into a reality.
Photo by Michael Beattie