CenCal Health’s contributions to more than 40 social service agencies and nonprofits support at-risk youth, children with disabilities, food-insecure seniors among others in need
SANTA BARBARA, Calif.–December, 2023–More than 40 service agencies and associations, as well as community nonprofits and organizations, in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have already received or will receive community benefits funding in 2023 from the local health plan CenCal Health. By the end of this year, over $530,000 will have been distributed by the local Medi-Cal health plan to support and improve the overall health and wellness of communities in its two-county service area.
“During this holiday season of giving, all of us at CenCal Health want to highlight those local agencies and organizations that–in various ways–serve all our residents, including our members, and especially the most vulnerable of our children, youth and seniors,” said CenCal Health CEO Marina Owen.
“Community Benefits” is CenCal Health’s initiative for subsidizing local health-related programs and community services that align with the health plan’s mission; it includes a budget for grants, event sponsorships and other types of funding that advance and enhance both Medi Cal and other safety net priorities, as well as the strategic interests of local communities. In 2023, the largest dollar amounts in Community Benefits were distributed to three organizations with innovative programs on the Central Coast.
In October, the nonprofit organization CommUnify was presented with a $124,380 check for its Adolescent Family Life Planning (AFLP) program. CenCal Health provided the funding to support this program, which serves expectant and young parents–primarily mothers ages 12 to 21 – in Santa Barbara County. The program aids young parents by facilitating access to social and emotional support services, building resiliency, helping young mothers experience a healthy pregnancy, and learning positive parenting goals. In addition, clients receive support to complete their high school education and set career goals. All services are free to participants; most AFLP services are rendered in Santa Maria. With this new funding, CommUnify will be able to amplify and expand services in Lompoc, Santa Barbara and Goleta.
“With this generous funding from CenCal Health, our AFLP program will be able to increase our case management capacity for new parents by expanding a part-time case manager position to a full-time position,” said CommUnify CEO Patricia Keelan. “In addition, we can increase the behavioral wellness services offered to young parents by continuing to support the salary of a part-time therapist versed in trauma-informed, evidence-based clinical therapies.”
MEALS THAT CONNECT
Due to the pressing need for daily nutritious meals among seniors facing food insecurity, the nonprofit organization Meals That Connect provides free lunches to older adults in San Luis Obispo County via its Senior Nutrition program, and, more recently, began preparing food to support Santa Barbara County’s program administered through the Area Agency on Aging.
The meals are served at 15 congregate settings across the two counties and also dispatched for delivery to homebound seniors in SLO County. The successful program offers nutritional security and social connections to approximately 10,000 clients, including CenCal Health plan members. Since 2016, CenCal Health has maintained a longstanding partnership with Meals that Connect, and annually contributes $200,000 to the Senior Nutrition program, in two installments. This past May, the second installment of $100,000 was paid out for the 2023 calendar year.
“Meals That Connect strives to support this vulnerable population with our mission of enhancing health, restoring dignity, supporting independence, and reducing isolation for every resident at least 60 years old and in need in our two counties,” said Laura Kelsay Edwards, Meals That Connect Executive Director. “We greatly appreciate CenCal Health’s ongoing support that helps make this happen.”
Camp Mariposas is an annual summer program that provides therapeutic interventions to underserved school-aged children in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. The program aims to prevent regression and lapses in learning for children during the summer break when students are away from school-provided therapies. Camp attendees’ diagnoses include autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, and other developmental conditions that would benefit from early and continuous interventions. Targeted therapies include speech, occupational, socialization and more. Additionally, parents receive training–available in English and Spanish–and can join support groups held virtually and in person. Camp Mariposas is the only summer camp of its kind in the two counties.
The camp is run by MP Health, a health services provider contracted by CenCal Health. Since 2017, CenCal Health has been Camp Mariposas’ sole funder. “It’s the financial support provided by CenCal Health that has allowed us–year after year–to expand and increase the staffing required to accommodate the growing number of campers,” said Silvia Wasjutin, founder/owner of MP Health. In June 2023, CenCal Health awarded an $87,000 grant to Camp Mariposas, which allowed the program’s expansion into Santa Maria–the camp’s third on-site location in addition to Santa Barbara and Atascadero.
In addition to funding these three specific programs administered by CommUnify, Meals That Connect and MP Health, close to $122,000 in Community Benefits was distributed to various nonprofit and community groups. Other organizations, programs and events that CenCal Health sponsored or contributed to in 2023 include (in Santa Barbara): VNA Health Foundation, Foodbank of Santa Barbara, Family Services Agency of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara Foundation (Magoo’s Shoes), Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, and, (in SLO County) 5Cities Homeless Foundation, Dignified Hope Care Community Service, and SLO Foodbank.
“We so appreciate the important work that these organizations are doing to strengthen the health of our region,” said Owen. “They are truly our partners in the shared vision of advancing health equity so that our communities thrive and achieve optimal health.”
More information on CenCal Health is available at cencalhealth.org
About CenCal Health
CenCal Health is the local Medi-Cal health plan that partners with over 1,500 local physicians, hospitals, and other providers in delivering health care services to nearly 230,000 members in its two-county service area–one in three residents of Santa Barbara County and one in four residents of San Luis Obispo County. Marking 40 years of serving the most vulnerable, CenCal Health prioritizes cultivating community partnerships; advancing quality and health equity; expanding its service role and reach in the community; and organizing for impact and effectiveness. With a vision to be a trusted leader in advancing health equity so that the communities we serve thrive and achieve optimal health, CenCal Health invites the public to review its 2023-2025 Strategic Plan at cencalhealth.org/strategicplan
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