CONNECTIONS — Palm Drive Health Care District Executive Director Alanna Brogan is also the coordinator of the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter, which has been funding public health initiatives in west county since 2016.

When the Palm Drive Health Care District dissolves in June of this year, there’s a danger that it will take with it another local health care program: the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter.
Local public health advocates say that Gravenstein Health Action has been doing a lot of good in west county — basically providing public health services that Sebastopol otherwise lacks —but it’s been flying mostly under the radar. 
The Gravenstein Health Action Chapter was founded in 2016 and from the beginning, it has been funded with parcel tax money from Measure W, the measure that was passed in 2004 to support what was then Palm Drive Hospital. This has made the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter controversial among opponents of the district, who feel Measure W funds should only have been used for the hospital and nothing else.
Few, though, dispute the value of the programs that Gravenstein Health Action has supported. These programs include the following:
(Note: The numbers in parentheses represent the amount of money that Gravenstein Health Action has spent on that program to date.)
• The foot care program for the elderly at Burbank Heights and the Sebastopol Area Senior Center ($19,000 over three years)
• Homeless housing for Park Village, Sebastopol’s low low-income housing ($67,000, from a grant)
• The Sebastopol Teen Club ($15,000)
• Anti-bullying efforts at Analy ($2,000)
• Fall prevention classes at the senior center ($2,000)
• Parent Resource Fair ($5,000)
• An online resource library for senior caretakers ($3,000)
• Various resiliency efforts including Map Your Neighborhood ($1,000), the Graton Disaster Fair ($10,000 over three years) and resiliency classes.
• Paramedic training for Bodega Bay Fire Department ($42,000)
• Blood pressure screening at the Sebastopol Farmers Market (free because it’s done by volunteers)
“Health Action has been quietly working on important projects that sustain our community’s health and well being,” said Sebastopol City Councilmember Una Glass, who is a member of the county’s Health Action Leadership Council. “Foot care and fall prevention for seniors, caregiver support, neighborhood emergency planning and much more — these are important programs.”
Glass is worried that when the Palm Drive Healthcare District dissolves — leaving the gathering of the district’s parcel taxes and payment of its debts in the hands of the county — the funding for the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter will disappear as well.
She’s not the only one who’s concerned. Alana Brogan, the executive director of the Palm Drive Health Care District, is also the coordinator of the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter.
“Now that the district has voted on dissolution, my primary focus rests with finding a home for the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter,” she said. “I am working on different options.”
Keeping the chapter alive is important, Brogan said, because the kind of public health programs that Gravenstein Health Action funds provide a lot of bang for the buck.
“That’s the thing about community health,” she said, “you can do a lot with not that much money and it has a tremendous effect on our health — on adult health, senior health, teen health. Upstream interventions” — meaning preventive health efforts in the community — “can really stretch our health care dollars.”
“I think that if the public knew more about Health Action and the important work it does in the community, then hopefully they would rally around its survival,” she said.
What is Health Action?
In August 2007, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors asked the Department of Health Services to convene a “health action council” to work on improving health and health care for all Sonoma County residents. 
According the website, the council focuses on “three impact areas: a long and healthy life, educational attainment and a comfortable standard of living.”
Though it has a small paid staff of just five people at the county level, the overall structure of Health Action is breathtakingly bureaucratic.
At the county level, Health Action consists of a leadership council made up of 40 representatives from county and city governments, major granting institutions, hospitals and health districts and other nonprofits. (Glass is a member of this board.) This large group is supposed to provide the guiding vision for the project. There’s also a smaller Leadership Team composed of 13 members, including Brogan, which is in charge of making sure that this vision is being carried out on the local level
The local level is where the real action is. There are nine Health Action chapters in Sonoma County: Windsor, Santa Rosa, Sonoma Valley, Petaluma, Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Lower Russian River Area and the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter.
The local chapters are charged with sussing out and addressing the most pressing health needs of their regions.
The Gravenstein Chapter
The Gravenstein Chapter represents Sebastopol, Graton, Occidental, Bodega and Bodega Bay.
In the year after it was first founded, the Gravenstein Chapter held a series of listening sessions with local residents to get their input about west county’s most pressing health needs. From those discussions, it created four taskforces — Age Friendly, Behavioral Health, Cradle to Career and Map Your Neighborhood.
These taskforces are peopled by concerned citizens, who meet monthly to learn about their topic areas, share the research they’ve been doing, and come up with projects to submit to the local steering committee for funding.
In the case of the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter, the local steering committee also happens to be a board committee of the Palm Drive Health Care District (PDHCD), consisting of Brogan, PDHCD board members Gail Thomas and Eira Klich-Heartt and other community members.
Brogan and her assistant are paid for their work with the Gravenstein Health Action as part of their work for the district, a situation Brogran said isn’t unusual.
“There are nine health action chapters, and all but one have paid coordinators,” she said. “They (the chapters) rely on donations and funding from cities. In one case, it’s a senior center, but the idea is that they’re all sponsored by some agency that has access to dollars.”
For much of 2019, Brogan had hoped that the Palm Drive Health Care District could shift its mandate and direct the money left over after bond and bankruptcy payments to support the public health initiatives of the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter. After the district pays its debts, there’s about  $700,000 a year left over. Now that the district has decided to dissolve, that $700,000, some of which was previously flowing into the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter’s local public health initiatives, will be used to pay of the district’s debts.
What will happen to Gravenstein Health Action after the district dissolves?
Right now, that’s anyone’s best guess, including those most involved in the decision-making.
“I don’t have a definitive plan yet,” Brogan said, “but I have talked with West County Health Centers to see if they could play a role. I’ve talked with the city to see if they could play a role. And then the foundation that was the hospital’s foundation, they have a 501c3, and so they’re interested in playing a role.”
One thing seems clear: “We are going to have to rely more on donations,” Brogan said.
This is part one of a three-part series. The next two parts will look at some programs funded by the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter and how the chapter might sustain itself in the future.

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