Critics overlook Sacramento County’s health care innovations. Here’s what’s changing

A report released in June by the advocacy group Health Access California criticized Sacramento County for providing inadequate access to health care for its low-income residents and claims that the county has historically lagged in providing safety net services for its vulnerable populations.

However, Sacramento County has recently launched several major efforts to enhance and improve health services and programs for vulnerable individuals and families.

Just this year, the Sacramento Board of Supervisors approved an innovative collaboration between the Sacramento County Primary Care Center (PCC) and UC Davis Health. In this joint effort, UC Davis is taking on more than 5,000 Medi-Cal enrollees and providing them with preventive, primary and behavioral health services at PCC. In addition to health care, the county has also developed partnerships with a variety of organizations to provide services onsite at PCC in order to address the social determinants of health that negatively affect many of these enrollees.

For example, Legal Services of Northern California will enable our patients to expunge certain offenses from their records and to combat evictions, thus allowing them to more readily access jobs and helping them to avoid becoming homeless. Another organization based at the PCC is Sacramento Covered, which helps patients enroll in programs that they are entitled to but don’t know about, such as Medi-Cal or CalFresh, providing access to both health care and healthy food.


Just this past month, the PCC received federal government approval to provide cardiology and neurology specialists on site for all our Medi-Cal patients. This achievement will both dramatically increase availability of these previously difficult to access specialists and also set an example for other community-based primary care providers, known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), to apply for federal approval to provide much needed specialty services to their vulnerable patients.

Additionally, the county will open a clinic on the site of Loaves and Fishes by the end of the year to bring primary care and behavioral health services to those experiencing homelessness.

Since 2016, Sacramento County has also stepped forward to provide primary and specialty services to uninsured undocumented adults Undocumented minors in the state already are eligible for coverage in Medi-Cal. Through funds appropriated by the Board of Supervisors, the program known as Healthy Partners recently was approved to increase the number of patients served to 4,000.

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SPIRIT program

Finally, along with state Sen. Richard Pan and Chet Hewitt, president of the Sierra Health Foundation, the county has conducted a robust process to obtain comments and recommendations from a diverse coalition of advocates, providers, FQHCs, consumers, health systems, students and other interested parties to guide our efforts to reform the current fragmented, confusing and dysfunctional Medi-Cal Geographic Managed Care system – known as GMC – that exists in Sacramento County.

The group has coalesced around the need for more local control of the Medi-Cal system to give Sacramento County the same ability afforded to the other major counties in the state to shape our local system. By obtaining this local authority, we can go a long way toward insuring the provision of high-quality care, improving access to providers and increasing patient satisfaction among the more than 420,000 Medi-Cal enrollees in Sacramento County.

These comprehensive efforts demonstrate Sacramento County’s strong commitment to meeting Health Access’s challenge to Sacramento County to go from laggard to leader among California’s counties in addressing the health and social needs of our most vulnerable residents.

Peter Beilenson is director of the Sacramento County Department of Health Services.
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