Local clinics and OC community groups seek more funding as state budget leaves them behind

Orange County local health clinics, community organizations and the Health Care Agency grapple with funding shortfalls in the proposed state budget, as organizations ramp up vaccination rates against the coronavirus throughout the county.

“So we decided a few weeks ago to do it our way – to be in the neighborhoods. Make it as easy as possible. And it works, ”said Nancy Mejia, program manager at Latino Health Access, a Santa Ana-based community group that has become a critical partner in Orange County’s efforts to fight the coronavirus with tests and vaccines. .

As the group mobilizes to help continue to increase vaccination rates in the OC center, Mejia said the organization has downsized its neighborhood and mobile clinics in an effort to be in more d ‘places both by dividing resources and personnel.

“They are even smaller than what we have done before,” Mejia said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “We deliver around 100 to 200 doses per event, but over a two to three hour period.”

Yet, it is unclear whether there is new funding coming from the state for local health clinics and community organizations whose efforts have been and continue to be critical in lowering positivity rates and increasing the rates. vaccination rates in the hardest-hit areas.

“We’re going to have to invest a lot of resources in the communities that have been hit the hardest. This pandemic has exposed a bunch of inequities that have been around for some time, ”Mejia said. “We are looking at how we can maintain a presence in these neighborhoods for the long term.”

Clinics may need to give booster shots while on the road.

David Becerra, program director for the local health clinic, Families Together of Orange County, said he was concerned he would not be able to keep enough staff for another round of vaccines.

“There is a certain side of the story that is not being considered, with boosters being needed in the future. We have to keep the resources in place. So to do that, we need funding, ”Becerra said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “We are still operating in a deficit, in terms of families together paying for immunization services.”

The clinic has vaccinated more people than any other local health clinic, according to data from the OC Health Care Agency.

Becerra, who leads Families Together’s coronavirus vaccination efforts, said the more than 20,000 people they have vaccinated will request a booster at some point.

And it probably won’t be staggered by age groups like the early shots were, he said.

“It’s going to be 20,000 people watching us immediately on how can you give me my booster shot,” Becerra said.

Historically underfunded public health departments, like the OC Healthcare Agency, are also excluded from the budget proposed by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Lily: Health clinics, community groups and OC health care agency excluded from government proposed budget Newsom

California Can’t Wait, an advocacy group for local health workers and medical leaders, pushed back Newsom’s spending plan at a press conference on Wednesday.

“It’s amazing. We can’t repeat the same mistakes California made before COVID-19 … underfunding of public health has prevented local public health agencies from doing more to reduce the very types of disparities in health care that left people of color more likely to get sick from COVID-19 and die, ”Monterey County health official Elsa Jimenez said at Wednesday’s press conference.

The group is calling for an additional $ 200 million in funding for public health departments as a starting point.

At a press conference last Friday, Newsom largely avoided questions about not giving more money to local clinics and health services, but said he would speak with lawmakers about the matter.

Latino Health Access and Families Together are just a few of the many organizations working to increase immunization rates in the most affected neighborhoods in Orange County.

County-run super vaccination sites are expected to close by June 6, and county officials plan to mirror the efforts of clinics and community groups to bring vaccines to neighborhoods.

Mejia said they recently helped host a vaccination clinic outside the Bristol Swap Mall in Santa Ana.

Not only were customers and employees vaccinated, but “the people getting off the bus saw what was going on, so they just decided to get on and get the shot,” Meijia said.

The group is also trying to partner with employers to bring photos to the workplace for people.

Latino Health Access is currently working on the logistics with employers, as some don’t want everyone to be vaccinated on the same day in case a majority of employees experience side effects – usually minor flu symptoms – and stay down for a while. a day or two, Meji said.

“We are grateful to have these conversations,” she said, adding that these discussions showed interest on the part of employers.

The Newsom administration announced Thursday that state public health officials will apply the flu vaccine in workplaces with the goal of providing coronavirus vaccines to more people.

“We are all aware of employee influenza vaccination programs that have been an effective way to support staff health,” state health officer Dr Tomás J. Aragón said in a press release. Thursday. “Now we are repeating these same good practices to make it easier for people to access COVID-19 vaccines, including promoting programs like extra paid sick leave so workers can take time off if they need it.”

Employers can ask a mobile clinic to stop at their workplace. State health officials should link employers with local clinics to get their workers vaccinated.

Becerra said Families Together of OC is ready to partner with anyone who wants to increase immunization rates.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations due to the OC virus have increased slightly today.

As of Thursday, 75 people were hospitalized, including 22 in intensive care units, according to the County Health Care Agency.

The virus has now killed 5,038 people – more than nine times the flu kills on an annual average.

COVID deaths have exceeded the average annual CO cancer deaths.

It also killed more heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke on an annual average, respectively.

Orange County has averaged about 20,000 deaths per year since 2016, including 543 annual flu deaths, according to state health data.

Last year, more than 24,400 OC residents died, according to the state’s latest health data.

According to state mortality statistics, cancer kills more than 4,600 people, heart disease kills more than 2,800, more than 1,400 die of Alzheimer’s disease, and strokes kill more than 1,300 people.

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC reporter. You can reach him at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @SpencerCustodio

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