Sonoma County's Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with the Alexander Valley Health Center in Cloverdale to bring "essential mental health and substance abuse treatment services" to Northern Sonoma County through its Path2Health program, but its future is now somewhat clouded with the prospect of health care reform being struck down by the Supreme Court.

Path2Health, which is part of the state-run County Medical Services Program, has been described by health officials as a "bridge to health reform." It was implemented at the start of this year, with some 2,500 uninsured county residents projected to gain coverage under the program.

The most recent collaboration with Alexander Valley Health Center aims to offer mental health and substance abuse services that were expanded under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, improving upon the current available services in North County.

"This innovative new partnership will ensure that the residents of Cloverdale, unlike ever before, will have access to vital mental health and substance abuse treatment services," Supervisor Mike McGuire said in a statement announcing the collaboration.

But Path2Health, a two-year pilot project created under health care reform, faces an uncertain future if the federal health overhaul is overturned, according to Rod Stroud, an administrative services officer for Sonoma County Public Health. 

Last week, justices for the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of the health bill's mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance. At issue is whether or not the rest of the Affordable Care Act could remain in place if the individual mandate is thrown out on the grounds that it violates the U.S. Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court will issue a decision sometime in June this year. Sharp questioning by some of the justices has led many health experts to wonder whether the bill would survive.

Path2Health would last through 2014, when many of the bill's main provisions take effect. One such provision is an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state's version of Medicaid, which would enable those enrolled in Path2Health to obtain coverage.  Now that the bill is in doubt,  the County Medical Services Program's Governing Board would have to decide on whether the program would continue, since those enrolled in it would lose coverage after 2014 without the Medicaid expansion, Mr. Stroud said.

"How CMSP developed Path2Health is as a two-year pilot project," he said. "They viewed the programs as going away with the Medicaid expansion."

Each month, approximately 6,000 county residents are enrolled in CMSP, with about 80 percent covered under the Path2Health program, according to the county.

Sonoma County spends roughly $13.5 million every year for the County Medical Services Program, Mr. Stroud said, but receives close to $30 million in services provided. Counties that participate in CMSP also receive federal matching grants to help with the cost.

The Affordable Care Act also placed an emphasis on mental health, substance abuse and primary care.

"From our perspective, I thought is was a great thing when they added behavioral health and substance abuse services, and definitely hope that would continue," Mr. Stroud said.

"Path2Health opens access to patients previously unable to obtain insurance coverage and usually went without much needed services.  It is amazing and it’s about time," said Alexander Valley Health Center CEO Debbie Howell.

The governing board for the County Medical Services Program projects that Path2Health would extend coverage to 30,000 individuals across the state. Sonoma County, one of 34 counties to take part in the program, comprises nearly 9 percent of the state program's case load.***

Queen of the Valley's Regional Cancer Center has received an outstanding achievement award from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons -- one of nine such programs in the state and the only one in Napa or Sonoma counties to earn the distinction, the hospital in Napa said.

The award, a "Three-year Accreditation with Commendation" is given to facilities that undergo a rigorous evaluation process and review of their performance, according the the 191-bed hospital.

 “This award is a wonderful and well-deserved acknowledgement of our cancer program and staff,” said James Knister, MD, medical director of the Queen’s Cancer Center in a statement.  “We strive to provide the people of this community with the latest technologies and treatments coupled with highest level of compassionate care, dignity and service.” 

It's the second time the Queen has received a three-year accreditation and an outstanding achievement award from the American College of Surgeons.

In 2011, the cancer center was also the recipient of a three-year accreditation in radiation oncology by the American College of Radiology and the American Society for Radiation Oncology. The Queen’s radiation oncology program is one of only seven programs in California to have received this level of accreditation, according to the hospital.

The  cancer center provides  cancer education, prevention, diagnostic and treatment services, as well as an array of rehabilitation and support services that complement cancer therapy. The standards that form the basis of the award criteria are drawn from the following six areas of program activity: cancer committee leadership; cancer data management; clinical management; research; community outreach; and quality improvement.***

The North Bay Cancer Alliance announced that it's Sonoma County Risk Assessment Program has been transitioned to Redwood Regional Medical Group.

The program was started in 2009 by Dr. Charles Elboim, a breast surgeon, and Kate Mott, a cancer risk assessment specialist.  It has served some 5,500 local residents, mostly women, according to the Alliance.

The program was made possible from the financial support of community leaders such as the late Denny Murray, First Community Bank, Stark Reality Restaurants, Hotel Healdsburg & The Spa, Exchange Bank, Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County, Ken and Donna Martin, Greenleaf & Burleson, BCI Dental, Redwood Regional Medical Group and volunteers and financial supporters.

The  nonprofit Cancer Alliance, founded in 2005, will continue providing early detection and prevention services, genetic testing, cancer education and research and patient services....

Submit items for this column to Business Journal Staff Writer Dan Verel, 707-521-4257 or dverel@busjrnl.com.