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Increasing Health Access in Plumas County


For more than 10 years, Sierra Institute for Community and Environment has actively engaged in local health projects to improve health access, reduce disparities, and foster community decision-making. Starting in 1999, Sierra Institute conducted focus groups with community residents and youth to explore health needs as part of the Healthy Plumas Vision 2020 project. Proyecto Salud, a multi-year participatory engagement project focused on Latina women and young children, was started in 2005 and was instrumental in empowering and defining a previously disenfranchised population in the eastern part of the county. In 2007, the Sierra Institute partnered with Plumas County Public Health Agency on an assessment of the Plumas healthcare system that provided insights to a broken infrastructure and established compelling reasons for hospitals and organizations to work together.

More than a 'research think tank,' Sierra Institute offers sustainable solutions for health issues with an eye to the intersection of environmental and wellness factors. The Sierra Institute has partnered with Plumas County Public Health Agency and others to create a Local Health Access Coalition to address pressing health access concerns, like outreach, enrollment, retention, and utilization of public benefits in communities; oral health prevention and treatment activities; alcohol, tobacco and other drug strategic planning, and conducting a county-wide community health assessment and improvement plan with all hospital districts and the Greenville Rancheria. Telemedicine continues to be an important service that Sierra Institute is supporting by funding equipment and program implementation. Language and cultural competency are improved through translation support of medical resources and trainings.


Current Events

2012 Plumas County Collaborative Health Assessment

Community Themes and Strengths

Phase One - Residents ID Transportation as a Health Barrier

In December 2011, Plumas County Public Health Agency (PCPHA) and partners completed Town Hall meetings in Quincy, Chester, Portola and Greenville to gather resident thoughts and opinions.  These activities are are part of the countywide health needs assessment and provide an important 'portrait' of the community as seen through the eyes of its residents.  The results support the idea that it's time to move upstream from the doctor's office in our perception of health and health care.  We need to include the social determinants of health (poverty, employment, education) in the discussion as we develop policies, programs, and plans.  Transportation, access to health care and mental health needs resonated across all communities.  PCPHA, Eastern Plumas Health Care, Plumas District Hospital, Greenville Rancheria, Seneca Healthcare District and the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment are working together on the health assessment.  These findings will form the basis for creating a countywide improvement Action Plan.  The plan will provide a promising framework for decision-making by county officials and stakeholders and a 'snapshot' of health status of our communities.

To read more on the initial findings, click here (pdf).


Community engagement is a vital part of the improvement process to identify community themes and strengths.  Four communities met:

  • Quincy with an attendance of 25
  • Chester with an attendance of 17
  • Portola with an attendance of 64
  • Greenville with an attendance of 31

Town Hall meetings are one way Plumas partners are gathering community thoughts, opinions, and concerns.  They provide a 'portrait' of the community as seen through the eyes of its residents.  This process also ensures that partners integrate specific health status issues into an improvement action plan.

To read more, click here (pdf).


The Town Hall Meetings of Plumas County

The first rounds of community engagement meetings for the health assessment process were a huge success and significant turnouts at each location generated meaningful feedback.  It was encouraging to see such a large volume of participants at the meetings who were invested in improving healthcare and the quality of life in Plumas County.

In Portola, as many as 60 people participated in the forum.  Many of the community members present voiced concern for common issues throughout the county such as

  • transportation to health services
  • access to healthcare
  • retention of providers
  • education of existing services
  • the need for collaboration among hospital districts, and more

Even though common themes from the meetings have been identified there were some specific concerns mentioned, which reflected the characteristics and demographics of the community.

The responses from these meetings are extremely valuable as they will drive the community health assessment process, and the type of data collected will be based on this feedback.  In addition, these community town hall meetings are just the beginning of the involvement of the community in this process,  After indicators are chosen and the needs assessment is completed, these 'town hall' meetings will commence once again to get feedback on the results, and to decipher what information is missing, as well as, to assess the legitimacy of the information presented.  Through this process not only will a needs assessment document be created, all communities will be more closely linked.

To read more (pdf) download Kate West's article in the Chester Progressive.


2011 Plumas Power of Prevention Health Summit
November 29th & 30th

With over fifty service providers and concerned individuals in attendance, this year's 2011 Plumas Power of Prevention Health Summit was a smashing success.  This unique event brought together a myriad of agencies, entities, and individuals in the county, as well as professionals from the Division of Adolescent Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California in San Francisco, for the purpose of discussing the pressing issue of adolescent depression and drug use.

There were a wide range of attendees with varied levels of experiences including doctors, therapists, licensed social workers, foster-care workers, school administrators, teachers, after-school program coordinators, Physician's assistants, family nurse practitioners, parents, health educators, and others and all agreed that the summit and presentations were very useful and effective.

Particularly insightful was the information garnered from the comments from the youth at Tuesday's Youth Forum and the questions posed during the panel session at the end of the summit.  These questions and comments provided useful information on the issues facing teens and providers in Plumas County and discussion surrounding these concerns were held with the UCSF staff.

The two-day event began in Greenville and Quincy with Youth Forums where Drs. Charles E. Irwin, Jr., Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, and David Knopf, LCSW MPH spoke to a group of local youth regarding a variety of topics including the use of tobacco products and alcohol. About sixty youth attended.

The doctors who presented are all from the University of California-San Francisco, Department of Pediatrics, the Division of Adolescent Medicine.  In a continuing effort to bring health care access to local residents, partnering with UCSF provides not only educational opportunities, but a connection for physicians and their patients.

Dr. Charles E. Irwin, Jr., Head of the Division of Adolescent Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California in San Francisco, was the featured speaker Tuesday evening, November 29th, at the Physicians' Roundtable, part of the 2011 Plumas Power of Prevention Health Summit held at the Plumas-Sierra Fairgrounds in Quincy.  Dr. Irwin. Jr. spoke to local physicians about Recognizing and Managing Depression in Adolescents in Primary Care.

On Wednesday, Dr. Irwin, Jr. continued his talk on adolescent depression along with providing information on Approaches to the Unique Care of Adolescents. Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher spoke about Why Teens Choose Tobacco & Other Drugs and What Can We Do to Intervene - Physiological Changes and Risk Behavior and also the Social Determinants of Drug Usage. David Knopf, LCSW, MPH, spoke about Adolescent Psychosocial Development. By clicking on any title, you'll be able to see the power-point presentations.

Overall, the two-day summit was a great success and the Sierra Institute and the Plumas County Public Health Agency look forward to partnering with the UCSF Division of Adolescent Medicine in many future endeavors.


Telemedicine Brings Experts to Rural Patients

Indian Valley Record-September 7, 2011-Trish Welsh Taylor

Seeing your doctor on a screen sounds impersonal, but it is one way to get doctors to patients who would otherwise not see a doctor at all, or risk taveling while suffering symptoms in bad weather.

Western Plumas Health Care's Mark Schweyer, MD, is so excited about the new telemedicine program he doesn't talk about much else.  He is the lead on EPHS's telemedicine program, having secured three years of grant funding for the program.  His colleagues and the EPHC board are equally excited.

Just as the low-dose mamography machine brings to the county a modern technology that benefits patients, telemedicine promises to increase access to diagnosis, consultation, and treatment.  EPHC Board Chairwoman Gail McGrath said of the program, "This is something we need to take advantage of."  Telemedicine is a tool of medicine.  The tech is basically a camera, a type of speaker-phone and a computer for processing the meeting.  It come on a well-styled cart with a real human being who facilitates the face-to-face screen meeting of doctor and patient.  The cameras are top notch and can zoom in to allow the medical expert to have an ultra close-up view, as would be needed in dermatology.  Patients' medical records and pertinent facts are available to doctors prior to appointments.  Read more...


With generous funding from the California Endowment and the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Sierra Institute works with a variety of partners including Plumas County Public Health Agency, Plumas County Mental Health Agency, Plumas District Hospital, Eastern Plumas Health Care, Seneca Healthcare District, the Greenville Ranchería, and the University of California, San Francisco.

County Healthcare Districts Launch Collaborative Group

In an unprecedented move that illustrates the growing importance of collaboration, Plumas District Hospital, Eastern Plumas Health Care District and Seneca District Hospital have joined together to improve health services across Plumas and Sierra Counties. The new alliance, called the Northern Sierra Collaborative Health Network (NSCHN), also includes the Plumas County Public Health Agency and Sierra County Health and Human Services, and Sierra Institute, which is co-facilitating the new group with Plumas county Public Health Agency.  Read more.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 November 2012 18:09