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North Bay Business Journal

Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 5:12 pm

Petaluma Health Center to open Rohnert Park clinic

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    Petaluma Health Center

    A number of Rohnert Park residents travel to Petaluma Health Center, pictured here, because Rohnert Park and Cotati, which have a high portion of uninsured, both lack public primary care options.

    ROHNERT PARK — Petaluma Health Center plans to open a new facility in Rohnert Park focused on primary care and dental services, slated to open in spring 2015.

    The new center, to be located on State Farm Drive, will serve both Rohnert Park and Cotati, according to an announcement from the federally qualified health center Tuesday. They are the only two cities in Sonoma County without a community health center, yet they have some of Sonoma County’s highest rates of uninsured residents who are eligible for publicly subsidized health insurance but are not enrolled, officials said in describing the impetus behind pursuing the location.

    The health center didn’t specify an exact location of the new Rohnert Park center.

    Petaluma Health Center’s Rohnert Park facility will provide care to more than 10,000, with the goal of increasing access to quality primary care, mental health, and dental services to underserved community members.

    “Improving access to prevention-focused primary health care services is crucial to improving overall health,” said Chief Medical Officer Nurit Licht, MD, in a statement.

    CEO Kathie Powell told the Business Journal that it had been in negotiations to lease about 35,000 square feet. It expects to serve some 5,000 residents in the first year and eventually reach up to 10,000 to 15,000.

    About 5,000 existing patients of Petaluma Health Center already live in Rohnert Park and commute south to the center’s main campus on North McDowell Boulevard, Ms. Powell said.

    “And there are thousands more who we are signing up for the expanded Medi-Cal and Covered California exchange plans,” she said. “The new site would have medical, dental, mental health, substance abuse, integrative medicine, pharmacy, optometry, and strong prevention (and) wellness. 

    “When people have access to a trusted source of primary care services, they are much more likely to get preventative care instead of waiting until they are sick and being treated in emergency rooms,” Ms. Powell added. “Access to prevention-focused primary care improves our community’s health and ultimately drives down the overall cost to the health care system.”

    The city of Rohnert Park has a population of about 41,000 but only 53 licensed full- and part-time state-registered physicians , a ratio of 1.29 doctors per 1,000 residents, compared with the national average ration of 2.4. Kaiser Permanente has a medical office building in Rohnert Park and St. Joseph Health operates an urgent care center, but there is little available in terms of primary care.

    The health center said it will be seeking community support and donations for the Rohnert Park location.  An exact figure was not immediately available.

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