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Fresno Building Healthy Communities Helps Kick Off Countdown To Coverage Statewide Campaign

by Sarah Reyes
Regional Program Manager, Central Valley
The California Endowment

In just a couple of months I will be celebrating the anniversary of my younger brother's sixth birthday. I know that sounds funny but you have to understand that is the year my brother almost died. You see he got sick and my family didn't have health insurance and didn't make enough to even go to the doctor. So they did back then, what most folks did and cared for him at home until it got so bad that they were forced to take him to the emergency room for care and they got their just in time as his appendix burst and he was rushed off to surgery. My parents spent the next 15 years paying off the emergency room bill.


Now fast forward several decades to Saturday, February 9, 2013 at the TCE WE Connect event and I am standing in the Fresno Fairgrounds watching an elderly lady be loaded up into an ambulance on her way to the emergency room for care. She was suffering, from what doctors called one of the worst cases of Shingles they had ever seen. When asked why she let it get so bad, the lady replied "I didn't have health insurance and couldn't afford to go to the doctor."

As I heard that it hurt me to realize the more things change the more they stay the same.

But I am hopeful that today things will change now that we have the Affordable Care Act.

For the first time in history in this country everyone will be required to have health coverage. The California Endowment has been at the forefront of this movement of health and wellness. The WE Connect program is a perfect example of that work. WE Connect is designed to educate and enroll eligible residents to existing affordable health coverage programs and ensuring that those not yet eligible are provided the necessary information on the upcoming changes that will allow them to be covered under state provided health care.

In Fresno that is exactly what took place, thousands of Fresno county residents came to the Fresno Fairgrounds on a cold and chilly day to get more information regarding ACA; sign up for the existing health service programs, and learn more about the benefits of ACA.

On this Saturday more than 8,000 residents participated in the WE Connect Health Care Enrollment & Resource Fair. They were greeted by 400 volunteers and through more than 40 of our local community partners were connected to dozens of services. Leading health coverage enrollment efforts and medical services was Clinica Sierra Vista who strategically worked with the Fresno County Health Department to screen over 546 families for health care coverage programs such as Medi-Cal and Kaiser Kids. The county tells us this was the largest number of applications ever processed on a single day, with 181 Medi-Cal applications completed and approved by the county on the spot. An additional 63 applications were started with follow up scheduled. And, for the first time, Clinica Sierra Vista enrolled 87 individuals into their sliding fee program offsite from the clinic. Many of the residents enrolled into the sliding fee program were seen at local Clinica Sierra Vista clinics the following Monday morning, making this a future model for Clinica Sierra Vista's outreach on preventative care.

Leading up to the event, Fresno's BHC community partners including Clinica Sierra Vista, Local Conservation Corps, and Communities for a New California made sure that residents living throughout the Fresno area knew about the event. They spoke individually with more than 5,000 households about WE Connect and more importantly about the Affordable Care Act. As part of their outreach Clinica helped prescreen individuals and followed up with those households determined to be eligible for low-cost coverage to help prepare them for onsite enrollment. The personal contact with health care experts began an important trust factor within the community and served as an important opportunity for Clinia and other BHC partners to build an expanded list of contacts to use for future follow up. The door-to-door effort helped echo the TV and radio announcements by providing individuals with information about the exact documents required to enroll and they were able to schedule appointments for free tax preparation assistance. The news coverage around the new health law prior to the event also helped drive an increase number of calls to Clinica Sierra Vistas's call center and inquiries the day of the event about the benefits of ACA.

The buzz around the event generated interest and attendance from local elected officials who saw first-hand the need to continue the ongoing conversation and collaboration on the full implementation of health reform in Fresno County. Our BHC Fresno partners and Hub staff have already developed a follow up plan on how to engage local decision makers and help them build a will to fully engage in the Healthcare reform in Fresno County.

As we all know preventive care is really at the core of any kind of health reform. That is why the one-stop-shop is at the core of the WE Connect events such as this one in Fresno. It was a place for not only outreach and education around the Affordable Care Act, but also provided over 640 attendees to receive free medical screenings such as flu shots, dental, vision and glucose screenings. All residents requiring follow up care were connected with a local clinic, 120 free tax preparations were provided for local families that made less than $57,000 in 2012, other money-saving resources included CalFresh application assistance where applications were completed by the Fresno County Health Department and local CalFresh partners, some of the most popular stations included free bike repair services provided by Off the Front, and a free healthy food giveaway, where 5,000 bags of groceries were distributed by the Fresno Community Food Bank.

The day may have ended with a memory of a woman being taken by ambulance to the emergency room, but my thoughts are that now with the Affordable Care Act in place scenes like that one of the lady in the ambulance and the one of my younger brother being rushed into surgery so many years ago will finally come to an end and we might never have to hear "I didn't seek help because I don't have healthcare."

But that won't happen unless we continue our quest to ensure that at the forefront of our communication strategies are the upcoming changes in healthcare and that we reach as many folks as possible by years end. Here is just a sample of the media coverage we received as a result of the WE Connect event on Saturday, February 9th in Fresno.

Here are a few highlights:

WE Connect Health Enrollment and Resource Fair- Event Photos

Hmong TV Network: Interviews with Participants

The Fresno Bee: WeConnect holds event to offer services in Fresno

Univision: ¿Cuáles son los beneficios de la Ley de salud Obamacare? (What are the Benefits of Obamacare?)

ABC30: Thousands Pack Fresno County Health and Financial Fair
La Opinion: ¡Sus impuestos son clave!


Univision: Feria ofrece servicios de salud (Fair offers health services)

Fox Fresno: Health Care and Resource Fair at Fresno Fairgrounds Saturday

KSEE: Health Care Scare

The Business Journal: Family resource fair offers help to Fresno families

Univision: No te pierdas "La Feria de salud" en Fresno

Asegurate ENG Sidebar

Thanks to the new health law, also known as Obamacare, our health care system is changing. Get Covered is a comprehensive outreach and enrollment multimedia campaign that targets the uninsured population, which is largely Latino. Visit


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