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December 2016

Message From The Director

Season of Thanksgiving

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and were able to celebrate with family and friends. Traditionally during this time of year, we look back to remember all that we have accomplished, celebrate our achievements and acknowledge lessons learned as we plan for the upcoming year.


Over this past year, we have achieved so much together. We increased access to primary care by expanding our health centers, increasing the number of clinics and hours of operation, integrating our care teams and continuing our telephone consultation clinic in partnership with our 24-hour advice nurse line. We continued to build upon our successful quality improvement efforts under DSRIP and began the hard work of setting benchmarks and milestones under the new Medi-Cal 2020 Waiver’s PRIME requirements. Under the Medi-Cal 2020 Waiver (formerly known as Medi-Cal 1115 Waiver), we received a five-year grant of $20 million annually to provide whole person care to high-need, high-utilizers of multiple services. We are building the information system infrastructure to support this new, innovative and highly integrated approach to health services.

Contra Costa Health Plan expanded its provider networks and enrolled thousands of new members. Children became eligible for state Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status, adults continued to take advantage of the new eligibility to Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and Contra Costa CARES, a local program supported by the County and local hospitals, provided a health home to low-income adults who were ineligible for coverage under ACA.

Stay Focused on our Mission

Now more than ever, it is important for us to remind ourselves of the important work that we do together and to stay focused on our mission: to care for and improve the health of all people in Contra Costa County with special attention to those who are most vulnerable to health problems. We are bombarded with news from various sources about what is happening in Washington, D.C. now and what might happen in the near future.

We know that many of the proposed health policy changes that president-elect Trump has vowed to make will impact us. Our integrated healthcare delivery system is now supported primarily with federal dollars in partnership with the state. A very small percentage of our budget comes from the County’s General Fund. Not only will repealing the ACA impact more than 20 million Americans insured through the Marketplace Exchange and those receiving coverage through the Medicaid expansion, it could also impact Medi-Cal 2020 funding, including PRIME, whole person care, and substance use disorder treatment programs.

Change Ahead

There is a lot of conjecture about what might happen, but so far there is nothing definitive. Our task is to stay attuned to what is proposed and which policies will negatively impact those we serve.

We are working with state and national organizations representing hospitals, health plans and behavioral health providers to dig deeply into the potential actions that the new administration and Congress could take to eliminate or reduce funding or change enrollment policies. We will use all of our advocacy efforts, in partnership with state and national organizations, to protect and preserve the great strides we made toward an integrated, patient-centered system of care built on principles of respect, inclusion and equity.

I know that it is very hard for us to remain optimistic with so many uncertainties ahead. I commit to do all that I can to continue to improve the health of our communities and to keep you informed about policy changes that will affect our ability to carry out our mission.

I also encourage you to give charitably of yourselves and your resources to others during this holiday season and throughout the year. Together we do make a difference in the lives of others.

Happy Holidays!

Going the Extra Mile:

These CCHS Employees are GEMs

Click here to find out how the people named below went the extra mile.

Norma Miranda
Christine Houser
Annette Kostelec
Katie Grigsby
Erik Blanek
Cheryl Chu
James Nelson
Erik Mann
Miu Tam
Leigh Pierson Brown, FNP
Eslit Torres
Paul Valdez
Norma Martinez
Michelle Palmer
Jessica Jones, RN
Tommy Tighe
Linda Russell-Sanders

Teresita Medina
Richille Bolotaolo, RN
Vanessa Wilson
Nick Smith
Amy Shaver
Anissa Carter
4C Psych NOC Shift Nursing Staff
Dawna Vann
Dave Johnson
Robert McKinnon
Janet Costa
Cassandra Robinson
Crystal Whitehead
Bernice Zamora
Ellen Shirgul
Judith Quittman

Holiday Tragedy

Fatal Foodborne Illness Outbreak Sparks Investigation of Thanksgiving Event

Our Environmental Health and Public Health divisions worked together to investigate an apparent foodborne illness outbreak following a Thanksgiving Day charity event in Antioch.

Three died and 22 others reported becoming ill after eating food from the holiday event at the Antioch American Legion auditorium. More than 800 meals—prepared by event volunteers—were served at the Thanksgiving event, which was organized by a community church in the area.

The cause of the illnesses is still under investigation. Tests done by our Public Health Lab came back negative for over 20 common foodborne disease agents, including salmonella, E. coli and norovirus. Public Health has sent biological samples to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to test for other agents. Our Environmental Health Division has been interviewing event organizers and reviewing food-safety practices used.


New Appointment Callback System Eliminates Need to Wait on Hold

Patients will soon be able to request callbacks rather than wait on hold when calling our medical appointment unit.

Currently, patients must wait on hold — sometimes more than an hour— when calling the appointment unit to schedule an office visit with a provider at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center & Health Centers. Now, thanks to our new inContact phone system, patients can opt to be called back by an appointment clerk rather than wait for someone to answer. Patients who choose the callback option will not lose their place in line.

The new system is being tested this month and will hopefully go online by early 2017, said Nikita Hughes, appointment systems coordinator.

In addition to the appointment unit, the callback system will be made available to other CCHS programs, including financial counseling, the advice nurse and Contra Costa Health Plan member services.

Contra Costa Regional Medical Center

Lessons Learned from Boiler Room Fire at Hospital

Contra Costa Regional Medical Center (CCRMC) officials are planning to conduct more fire drills and will review other safety procedures at the hospital after a boiler room fire led to the partial evacuation of the facility in October.

On October 7, a failed diesel fuel line on one the hospital’s boilers started a small fire in the boiler room. Firefighters arriving on the scene ordered the evacuation of the first and second floors of the hospital. Patients on those floors were moved to other areas of the hospital or discharged as appropriate. The fire was put out quickly, but residual smoke continued to pose a safety threat. Medical gasses were turned off and ambulances were diverted for several hours. Fortunately, no one was injured.

A debriefing after the fire included representatives from the hospital, Community Education & Information, Emergency Medical Services, HazMat, the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, the Sheriff’s Office and Public Works. The group identified a need for improving communications and the evacuation process in the future. CCRMC officials are now developing a process for future evacuation drills and reviewing the hospital’s fire plan with the fire marshal.

Health Benefits

CCHP Medi-Cal Members Now Can Get Free Blood Pressure Monitors

Blood pressure monitors are now covered as a pharmacy benefit for Contra Costa Health Plan (CCHP) Medi-Cal members with heart-health issues.

Providers in the RMC network can place orders in ccLink for the monitors (listed under “BP monitor covered by CCHP”). Those in the Community Provider Network can simply send a prescription to any network pharmacy for the Omron 3 or Omron 5 series BP monitors.

Providers can order one monitor per CCHP member every five years.

For more info, contact CCHP’s pharmacy director at

Contra Costa Health Plan

Health Plan Rates Go Up to Cover Rising Costs

County employees covered by the Contra Costa Health Plan (CCHP) may have noticed something different during the recent open enrollment period: Higher premiums.

For many years, CCHP hasn’t increased its rates for County employee plans even though costs have gone up, especially for medications and hospital expenses. Patricia Tanquary, CCHP’s chief executive officer, said the Health Plan could no longer afford to absorb those increased costs. As a result, CCHP raised its rates in 2017 for its Plan A and Plan B options by 9.2%.

Patricia said it was important to keep CCHP’s rate increase in perspective. By contrast, the average increase in rates for Covered California plans is 13.3%, she said. Patricia added CCHP’s rates are still lower than most other coverage options for county staff. And among all the County plans, CCHP’s offerings have the lowest copays and deductibles.

Homeless Programs

New Nonprofit Fund Helps Homeless Residents With Move-In Expenses

The Contra Costa Housing Security Fund, an innovative new tool created by our Division of Health, Housing and Homeless Services (H3), will remove obstacles for county residents who are transitioning out of homelessness by covering security deposits, application fees and other hidden costs of renting.

Organizers of the Housing Security Fund plan to begin assisting prescreened applicants in 2017, but hope to grow the fund to at least $50,000 by Dec. 31 through public donations.

The fund is intended for clients of homeless services in Contra Costa who are prepared for housing. It also offers assurances to landlords who rent to homeless individuals and families, by covering damages to units not covered by the security deposit, rent payment in arrears, and other costs.

The fund was established in November by the Contra Costa Homeless Continuum of Care, a network of community-based groups that provides services to homeless residents in the county, including H3, Multi-faith ACTION Coalition, and the Council on Homelessness, an advisory panel to the Board of Supervisors.

Continuum members also include the Richmond Community Foundation, which collects donations for the Housing Security Fund, and Contra Costa Crisis Center, which will administer the fund.

Visit to donate online, or email for more information.

Emergency Medical Services

EMS First Responders Honored at Luncheon

Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services (EMS) reunited bystanders, dispatchers, emergency ambulance providers and firefighters with people who they rescued Nov. 9 at its first annual Survivors’ Reunion Luncheon.

The event, held at the Boundary Oak Golf Course in Walnut Creek, recognized peer-nominated EMS professionals for exemplary service in 2016 in award categories such as the Siren Award, the Heart of EMS, the Compassionate Caregiver Award and the Star of Life. Among those honored was retired EMS Prehospital Care Coordinator Pam Dodson, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her work implementing our successful HeartSafe Communities program.

Other honorees included ambulance crews, firefighters, hospital emergency department staff members, police officers, lifeguards and even bystanders whose quick actions helped save lives.


Donate to the Food Bank as Part of the Annual “Food Fight”

The annual Counties Care Holiday Food Fight is on between Contra Costa and Solano county employees! With your help, our county can win its friendly competition to deliver the most food to the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano Counties.

You can deliver help to hungry families by making a donation online. (Here is a tip sheet for how to make online donations.) You can also donate with cash or check in the office.

Every dollar donated provides two full meals to the needy, and allows the Food Bank to purchase perishables such as fresh fruits. The Food Fight runs through December 31.

For more info, contact Food Fight coordinator Kate Sibley at or 925-335-1032.

Behavioral Health

Conservatorship Program Moves Back to Behavioral Health Division

Health Services’ Conservatorship & Guardianship Program has rejoined the Behavioral Health Division after a brief period within Contra Costa Regional Medical Center & Health Centers.

The program, which manages the affairs of county residents who cannot provide properly for their own basic needs, followed former Adult Mental Health Program Chief Vic Montoya when he became CCRMC’s integration program chief last year to ensure continuity for its sensitive work.

With Jan Cobaleda-Kegler now filling Montoya’s role in Behavioral Health, the program and its caseload of about 900 returns to Mental Health, where it will continue to work with Contra Costa Superior Court, local medical providers and families to ensure proper care for its clients.

Services range from managing the personal finances of clients to more involved arrangements, such as court-appointed authority over psychiatric and medical care, or control of a conserved party’s estate.

Program clients have conditions that impair their decision making, such as dementia or severe mental illness, and are generally referred to conservatorship by the court or by hospitals, when a doctor determines that a patient cannot properly care for themselves upon release.


Thanks to these employees who have given us long years of service:

35 Years

Carlotta McClain and April Roberts

30 Years

Maggie Nguyen and Henry Ong

25 Years

Derrelle Hill, Sonja Vogel, Julie Ambriz, Nancy Phothyphom, Loan Hoang, Rhonda Gross

20 Years

Chantel Sheppard Allen, Kevin, Gebken, Jesus Dominguez, Richard Freitas, Carol Brown, Jeff Kaufman, Nancy Stothers, Alesia Berry, Valerie Dickerson, Marian Gentry

15 Years

Luz Gomez, Virgilio Jumamoy II, Karen Flowers, Denise Milesovich, Fe Villar-Gibson, Ferdinand Uwagechie, Maria Banados, David Charrette, Luisa Arguello-Mendoza, Melinda Young, Julie Waring, Guenter Hofstadler, Brenda Simmons

10 Years

Mary Rizon, Gina Sumagang, Lisa Mitchell, Brenda Gladdis-Baldwin, Elvira Sarlis, Claudia Salmeron, Amelia Ng, Maria Regina Panaligan, Nancy Cotter, Nicole Heath, Noushin Rod, Annabel Abad, Steven Lam, Jeannie Cummings, Arlene Trimble, Rosanna Spear, Christine Martinez, Joanie Copeland, Ching-Tat Cheung, Belaynesh Biowta, Christina Beckett-Ware, Rumiana Allen, Patricia Frost, Jacob Conway

Send feedback and story ideas to editor Will Harper at