Benefiting from a Local “Medical Home”
Ismael Gutierrez reached the famous “local resident” milestone in West Marin a long time ago, since he’s lived and owned his own business there for 20 years. He’s also raised a family in West Marin, and while his older daughter now goes to high school “over the hill,” as they put it in that part of the county, his roots are solidly in and around Pt. Reyes Station.
Sitting in the small but orderly office of his landscape contracting business (with one of his own creations, a beautifully landscaped patio, just outside the door), Gutierrez is passionate about one local resource that he and his family have benefited from, and which he now helps lead—Coastal Health Alliance.
In fact, when he talks about it, one would think he’s describing much more than a health care clinic. “I’ve been going there since I moved here, and they’ve known my daughters since they were born,” he says. “And they don’t just treat us and forget about us. They call to see how we’re doing.
“It feels very comfortable and homey there,” he adds. “Everyone gets to know each other. It’s a very protective feeling.”
Gutierrez says that beyond providing ongoing health services, the clinic has been there for him and his family—both immediate and extended—to provide care, and make referrals, for a serious illness and for therapeutic support following a traumatic family event.
And there’s another benefit for Gutierrez. Many of his 28 employees and their families take advantage of the clinic, receiving care that is accessible, affordable, and—when necessary—delivered by Spanish-speaking doctors and staff. He says that without the clinic, many of his employees wouldn’t receive care.
Two years ago, Gutierrez became one of the clinic’s first Latino board members, in part “to give something back to my community” and in part to be a voice for the area’s Latino community. Many people are not aware of what the clinic offers, he says, and he wants to be sure they are. He says the clinic itself has become “a bridge between the Latino and white communities in West Marin,” since people see each other there and get to know each other.
Coastal Health Alliance—along with other nonprofit health care providers throughout the county—receives support under MCF’s Community Grants area to improve access to affordable health care, especially for those Marin residents who are uninsured. Patients of Coastal Health Alliance are able to access providers at one of three sites in West Marin and establish a “medical home,” where they are known, feel welcomed, and receive a continuum of care.
That’s what Coastal Health Alliance is for Gutierrez and his family. While the Foundation funds many services there that are behind the scenes—like developing an electronic health record system and a strategic plan—what matters most is what happens when patients like Gutierrez and his family walk through the front door: They’re greeted like friends, and the care goes both ways.