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West County Health Centers: Responsive, Respectful, Resilient

Nov 1, 2018


For over 40 years, West County Health Centers (WCHC) has offered its broad range of medical and support services to an ever-growing patient population. From its modest beginnings in 1974, with one clinic in Guerneville, to 7 patient sites treating a total of 12,838 patients in 2017, WCHC are known primarily for their services to the medically underserved in our communities.

One step ahead

The history of this organization has its roots in the identity of West Sonoma County and perhaps that is why – as an organization – it has always been one step ahead in terms of anticipating the populations’ most pressing healthcare needs.

WCHC has been in the forefront for providing medical care to HIV/AIDS patients, the homeless, the substance addicted as well as offering primary and preventive care to anyone who needs it. The list of services goes on, including dental care, OB/GYN, Reproductive Health, Wellness services and Behavioral Health.

WCHC operates out of a number of diverse buildings and office spaces adapted to local communities and has managed to accommodate the growing demand for their services throughout West Sonoma County.

For the past few years, the non-profit Federally Qualified Health Center literally has been building; finding space, adding services, and remodeling existing spaces are constant operational issues.

On December 26, 2015, the Russian River Health Center lost its main facility to fire. The set-back was devastating to patients and staff alike. The fire left WCHC with a serious operating cost deficit, not to mention the hundreds of RRHC patients who were left without a medical home.

Showing the stamina and resiliency they embody, the Guerneville site quickly began operating from a mobile unit followed up with temporary buildings nine months later

Mary Szecsey, West County Health Centers Chief Executive Officer, has long dreamed of creating a state of the art facility to house the services 3,500 + patients use every year in Guerneville.

The actualization of the dream began to arise from the ashes of the Guerneville fire. Szecsey and her team are realizing their vision to become “The Health Center of the Future” and have reached out to their community partners to make it happen.

The Health Center of the Future - 2019

The Health Center of the Future is described as an integrated hub for health and wellness, located on a beautiful 1.8 acre, riverside site in a 3-story complex on First Street in Guerneville.

The Center will house integrated Medical and Behavioral Health Services, the Dental Center, the Community Education Center, staff offices and break rooms, gardens, meditative and healing spaces.

Russian River services will be able to consolidate under one roof, saving operational costs of an estimated $250,000 per year. While Szecsey says the building will be an expensive one to build, ultimately the projected cost savings in relation to a greater ability to serve the community will improve cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

Successful Fundraising – More to Go

Donors, who are committed to supporting high quality, open access healthcare and understand the parallel to healthy communities, have been responsive to WCHC’s capital campaign.

The campaign is seeking to raise $7.9M in private gifts toward the new Russian River Health Center, which will cost nearly $14,2M to build. WCHC has aptly positioned themselves as an innovative leader during this time of healthcare reform; a position that resonates with donors large and small. The Board of Directors for WCHC is committed to raising the funds necessary.

This includes Healthcare for the Homeless

In 2016, WCHC applied for and received federal funding to open a new facility to address the complex health care needs of those who are currently homeless and those at risk of homelessness. The program has been operating in the portable units on Third Street in Guerneville.

With a staff of 6, the WCHC Homeless Healthcare team serves over 170 patients in West County. Led by Community Programs Director, Jed Heibel and Dr. Jared Garrison-Jakel, the team oversees a full range of services, including the navigation of local agencies to find housing. Every Thursday is Clean Day, when participants may attend a local resource fair; have access to showers, food and community-based services.

Very soon, the dental offices will move to Sebastopol and WCHC’s Homeless Healthcare Team will have newer, more spacious digs to treat their patients in what is now the dental center. Once the new Russian River Health and Wellness Center is opened in 2020, dental services will also be available in the new building.

For more information, visit the WCHC website at If you would like to make a gift to the new Russian River Health & Wellness Center, contact Jennifer Neeley at 707-869-5977, ext. 3313 or email at if you have questions.


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