COTS Lead Outreach Specialist Randy Clay, who works with Petaluma Sober Circle, speaking with a client

Since the 1940s, when voters approved its formation, the Petaluma Health Care District’s central mission has been to serve the health needs of South County residents.

That’s meant huge projects, like replacing an outdated hospital with the emergency room-equipped Petaluma Valley Hospital. It’s meant keeping PVH open while other small hospitals across the country struggled and hundreds of them closed. It’s meant allowing the Petaluma Health Center to incubate under the district’s umbrella and then separate to become a fully-fledged Federally Qualified Health Center.

It’s also meant partnerships with community organizations, including a 30-year partnership with COTS.

“Health care doesn’t stop at the doctor’s office door,” explains Ramona Faith, the District’s CEO. “So many things contribute to good health. And community health means all the community. Every one of us. That’s why we work with COTS.”

“Ramona gets us focused,” says Robin Phoenix, COTS’ Shelter Services Manager. “She brings people to the table and she makes things happen.”

And the results are both tremendous and impactful.

Robin’s favorite collaboration is The Petaluma Sober Circle, which the District convened and helps to manage.

Sober Circle involves an array of partners and provides a through-line of support through treatment, shelter, and housing to those who struggle with addiction. At the same time, Sober Circle reduces financial burdens to the local healthcare system and to the public sector by reducing reliance on costly emergency resources. Since the program started, for example, the police have had to make 80 percent fewer transports to the county detox center. Sober Circle participants make fewer trips to the emergency room, are hospitalized much less frequently and receive coordinated wrap-around services to help them pursue a path to recovery.

Ramona Faith, PHCD’s CEO

“Because Ramona got us all together in one room, we now have people who are getting the support they need to change their lives. And we see benefits to the entire community. It’s a beautiful thing,” Robin says. “This wouldn’t have happened without the Health Care District’s support and leadership.”

And like good collaborations, Sober Circle has only led to more partnerships and collaborations.

The Health Care District focuses its community efforts in five areas: access to health services; mental health and substance abuse; heart health and healthy food; housing affordability and availability; and equity in educational opportunities from “cradle to career” as the District calls it.

For those students, the District frequently partners with the Petaluma Educational Foundation, helping to develop and fund programs to enhance students’ physical, mental and emotional health. PEF Executive Director Maureen Highland says the District helps “lead the way” in creating innovative, useful and popular programs.

What’s next?

In November, voters authorized the sale of the Petaluma Valley Hospital in exchange for over $52 million and an agreement to keep the hospital open for at least 20 years.

For Ramona and her staff, that means more time and resources to further the health of the community. They are in the initial stages of involving the community in the creation of a thoughtful, strategic and sustainable plan to invest the proceeds of the sale in services and programs that will improve our health in southern Sonoma County for years to come.

Thank you, Petaluma Health Care District.

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