SANTA ROSA -- Santa Rosa Community Health Centers is in the midst of significant transition, announcing a new chief medical officer while also looking to fill two newly created positions -- in behavioral health and dental services -- that will play a key role as the center plots expansion and health care reform.

[caption id="attachment_78436" align="alignleft" width="113"] Dr. Francisco Trilla[/caption]

Dr. Francisco Trilla, who came to the federally qualified health center in 2010 from Massachusetts, recently told the center that he would return to the East Coast to be closer to family. In response, the health centers said it would appoint associate chief medical officer Lisa Ward, M.D., to the position permanently.

At the same time, the nonprofit health provider -- the largest in the North Bay -- is searching for a full-time behavioral health director to help expand its efforts in mental health for a patient population that lacks access to such services.

[caption id="attachment_65020" align="alignright" width="176"] Naomi Fuchs[/caption]

"We are creating a leadership role to help guide the growth and development of a critical program and service to our patients," Naomi Fuchs, chief executive officer, told the Business Journal. "We take a 'whole-person' approach to health. Addressing emotional and behavioral health issues are integral to health and well-being."

Currently, the health center has 12 behavioral and mental health specialists in psychiatry, psychology and licensed social workers.

The health center is also in search of a director for its forthcoming dental clinic, which will open in early 2014 and offer yet another expansion of services in an effort to combat one of Sonoma County's more persistent public health issues.

Santa Rosa Community Health Centers purchased the 12,600-square-foot building at 1110 North Dutton Ave. in Santa Rosa for $1.5 million. It's still seeking to raise $400,000 to close out the capital campaign for the building purchase. The renovation and outfitting of the clinic itself is being funded by a $2.8 million federal grant. Upon opening, the clinic will include 14 new dental chairs and will treat an anticipated 6,500 new patients and will have an annual operating budget of $3.4 million, according to Ms. Fuchs. The health centers expect to announce the two new hires by September.

The dental clinic will create 30 new jobs at the center, which has hired 152 people over the last two years, 63 of which were last year.  All told, the health centers, with eight locations throughout Santa Rosa, employs 325 full-time employees -- meaning it has nearly doubled in size in just over the past two years.  

A 2011 report from the Sonoma County Task Force on Oral Health found wide disparities in access to quality dental care, including only 15 dentists being available for 109,000 low income children. And more than two-thirds of the county's third-graders have experienced tooth decay, outpacing the statewide average.

The new positions are in addition to other efforts at the nonprofit, much of it centered on expansions related to the Affordable Care Act and an expansion of Med-Cal.

Dr. Ward will oversee all clinical aspects at the health center, including a nurse practitioner residency program that was established under health care reform and overseen by Dr. Trilla. The program is aimed at securing enough primary care providers at the health centers as health care providers across the country cope with a physician shortage.

Dr. Ward has been with Santa Rosa Community Health Centers since 2008, starting as a primary care physician and holding numerous positions, from director of the clinical care team, director of obstetrical quality and then associate CMO. She's also been actively involved with the Santa Rosa Family Residency Program, currently serving as its director of residency selection and recruitment and in the past as an assistant clinical professor.

Prior to joining the health center, she held numerous positions with San Francisco General Hospital, the County of Sacramento Department of Health and Human Services, UC, Davis Medical Center and clinics in Sacramento. She currently is on the Physician Advisory Committee for Partnership Health Plan.

Santa Rosa Community Health Centers sees more than 40,000 people in Santa Rosa -- or one in four people in the city. It had annual revenues of $31 million in 2012, making it the second largest nonprofit in the North Bay.