I’m writing to alert you to the steps we are taking to protect the health of our patients, our staff, and the community.
We are in regular contact with local health and governmental agencies and are tracking all CDC, state, and other clinical guidelines as this situation unfolds. Things are changing rapidly: County Public Health
At this time, we have reduced clinic schedules to essential, urgently needed services only. This is made possible through increased nurse triage and physician encounters via phone.
For urgencies that are COVID-related, we are requesting that patients call first. Where warranted by clinical guidelines, we are conducting assessments and testing at our clinics either in peoples’ cars or in tents (to protect other patients and our staff from potential exposures inside the clinics). We are ramping up testing.
We are maintaining appointments for urgent needs that are non-COVID-related such as unmanaged chronic conditions or acute care needs. All other nonessential visits (well care, for example) are postponed until further notice. We have begun providing behavioral health counseling visits by phone.
We have special concerns for patients who are homeless, especially since our numbers have increased significantly over the prior year. The County Health and Human Service Departments are leading local efforts to plan for the unique needs of patients who are homeless. We will join their actions.
We will continue bi-weekly food distribution at our East Cliff Family Health Center in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, made possible by setting out appropriately spaced, pre-packaged grocery bags that families can easily access.
Covered California has extended their deadline for enrollment through April 30th and staff are contacting patients to assist with renewals or new applications if they qualify.
It is necessary to reassure patients that COVID-19 testing is not subject to review under the federal Public Charge Rule, which was recently enacted to limit immigrant access to Medi-Cal and other public services. Fortunately, Public Charge does not restrict access to testing, screening, or treatment of communicable diseases, including COVID-19 or other vaccine-preventable diseases.
Our goal is to increase containment, prevent rapid spread, and ensure that local health care infrastructure maintains ready capacity throughout the course of the pandemic.
I want to recognize our incredible staff who are uniting in the face of an unprecedented challenge. Remember that our team (as at all Community Health Centers) are serving the most vulnerable among us: people living in poverty, people who are homeless, the uninsured, and those with serious mental health, substance use, and co-occurring medical conditions. This is not a simple task during ordinary times. And these are not ordinary times.
We also thank the provider community (County Public Health, sister safety-net clinics, private sector primary care and specialty providers, Central California Alliance for Health, the Health Improvement Partnership, and CPCA) for their on-going communication and partnership.
Finally, we especially thank the community for heeding public health advisories to stay home. This is a time for all of us to pull together and take responsibility for protecting the greater good by limiting our interactions as much as possible.
We will continue to bring you news from the front lines. And, as always, we will continue to bring the best of what science and human compassion dictate to the care of our patients, our staff, and the community.
Thank you for your support,
Leslie Conner, MPH
Chief Executive Officer
Santa Cruz County- Shelter in Place Order
For More Updates:
Santa Cruz County Public Health
California Department of Public Health
Center for Disease Control & Prevention
Important COVID-19 Notice from SCCH 3/16/20 Update