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New health center “vital” to local wellness

New health center “vital” to local wellness

U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-CA 18th) was just one of a number of local dignitaries who turned out for the grand opening of Turlock's new Golden Valley Health Center on Wednesday afternoon.


POSTED August 14, 2009 10:31 p.m.
As debate rages in Washington, D.C., — and locally — over President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform efforts, dignitaries from around the region turned out for the opening of Turlock’s second Golden Valley Health Center, lauding the center’s role in supporting the wellbeing of Stanislaus County residents.
“I always get excited when they open another one of these,” said Stanislaus County District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa.
The new facility, located at 1200 West Main St., joins the existing 1141 North Olive Ave. center and more than 20 other GVHC sites throughout Stanislaus and Merced counties. Golden Valley Health Centers has served hundreds of thousands of valley residents since its inception in 1972, providing primary care services to the poor, migrants, and those who experience a language barrier.
“It’s a great organization that serves all of Stanislaus County and Merced County, and we’re just happy to be here to support it,” said Josh Weimer, who was present to represent State Assemblyman Bill Berryhill (R-Ceres).
According to Michael Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of GVHC, the new site will bring medical care to a previously underserved area — and populace — of Turlock.
However, Sullivan admits that there are still large segments of Stanislaus County’s population in need of the sort of assistance GVHC offers — safety net medical help that turns no one away, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. Those who are asked to pay do so based on an income-adjusted sliding fee scale.
According to the nonprofit Health Care for All California, as many as seven million Californians are uninsured while millions more are underinsured. The majority of those uninsured reside in the Central Valley.
“My congressional district has fewer people with health insurance than anywhere else in the country,” said Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-CA 18th). “So this safety net is vitally important.”
Cardoza represents a swath of California stretching from Stockton in the north to parts of Fresno County in the south, including the whole of Merced County and the western half of Stanislaus County. Turlock and Denair sit outside of his district, while Hilmar and Keyes are included.
Cardoza said that only 22 percent of his constituents have private health insurance, 10 percent are on Medicare, and the remainder are either served by Medi-Cal or uninsured.
“It’s a big problem, a huge problem,” Cardoza said.
GVHC currently serves about 76,000 local patients each year. An even larger strain than usual is being placed upon their services due to layoffs and cutbacks brought about by the economic downturn.
According to HCAC, lack of insurance is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
In recognition of the desperate need for health centers like GVHC, now more than ever, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $2 billion in federal stimulus funds for community health centers. An expansion of the use of such centers is also a focal point of Obama’s proposed healthcare plan.
“Community health centers are really going to be an integral part of reforming the healthcare system in this country,” Cardoza said.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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