The Effort health program gets new name, new clinic

02/20/2013 12:00 AM

02/20/2013 8:01 AM

Back in the flower-powered 1960s, Sacramento's free clinic called itself the Aquarian Effort, fitting for a period when "Hair" was the top-selling LP and hippies were often medically indigent.

Eventually, the clinic expanded and shed "Aquarian," becoming The Effort.

Simple enough, it seems. "But there's confusion about the name and what we do," CEO Jonathan Porteus admitted Tuesday. "Some say The Effort means we are making an effort, but we are doing more than trying."

Hence a new name, announced Tuesday: WellSpace Health.

In an era when health care entities are approaching the 2014 launch of expanded coverage by the historic Affordable Care Act, a number of organizations are rebranding in order to be well-positioned.

First, the California state government health insurance exchange took on the name Covered California, then Sacramento County's counterpart became Sacramento Covered.

Though those monikers are less explanatory than WellSpace Health, even the self-evident takes time to sink in. Some attendees at Tuesday's naming ceremony found themselves in halting conversations as the tips of their tongues failed them.

Tuesday's ceremony, however, was more than just a rebranding exercise. Replete with blessings sung by an American Indian elder, the event also announced the grand opening of WellSpace Health's newest full-service community health center, in Rancho Cordova.

The clinic, sitting on grounds long ago occupied by the Miwok and Maidu, features murals depicting wildlife and American Indian scenes, and has room enough to host 30,000 clinic visits per year, as well as 7,700 dental clinics annually.

A main goal of the center is to link children to dental care at an early age.

Some years ago, the First Five Commission found that 80 percent of Sacramento County children did not see a dentist before the age of 5.

Since then, the proportion has improved to 40 percent of kids below 5 never seeing a dentist.

Financial assistance comes from the First Five Commission and Dignity Health, as well as the federal government, which is focused on building a network of what's called Federally Qualified Health Centers or FQHCs.

WellSpace Health's centers earned their standing as FQHCs in 2009, and have been expanding in number ever since. They serve Medi-Cal and Medicare patients and are required to accept anyone who comes for care. Fees are charged on a sliding scale based on income.

In 2008, the organization had five exam rooms in the Sacramento area. The opening of the Rancho Cordova center gives WellSpace Health a total of 54 exam rooms in the area – a nearly elevenfold increase.

In 2012, the group served 22,000 patients, compared with 2,000 back in 2005.

Regina Blackwell, 49, is a former patient, employee and current board member of WellSpace Health.

She sought help more than 10 years ago for an addiction to rock cocaine. Blackwell got an education, worked at The Effort for a while and has been clean nine years and three months, she said. She's now the WellSpace Health board's consumer representative. "Today, I'm the people's voice. And I don't hesitate to speak up," she said

The Elk Grove resident said, "I'm honored to be part of the community that's putting into place the Affordable Care Act. Someone heard us somewhere and gave us the health care we needed"

Next week, Blackwell will be at Natomas High School to give the first of what she expects will be many auditorium talks to at-risk youths.

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