Occidental Area Health Center Celebrates 40 Years of Service


It is with great pride that West County Health Centers celebrates over forty years of providing comprehensive, quality, and accessible health care services to the communities of western Sonoma County, beginning at the Occidental Area Health Center in 1976.   It is a great honor to care for our communities and provide a trusted “medical home” for thousands of people in western Sonoma County, including the most vulnerable and under-served.

While there are countless reasons to celebrate and support West County Health Centers, Occidental Area Health Center among the most important and unique is our long success in providing access to affordable, high quality, cost effective health care to medically vulnerable and underserved people throughout western Sonoma County.

The Occidental Area Health Center (OAHC) was established in 1976 by a group of community volunteers who wanted to have medical services available in their small rural town. The Health Center has provided a personal “medical home” for thousands of local families. Since its inception the Occidental Area Health Center has delivered over a thousand babies, with approximately 60 deliveries per year for two generations.  “Dr. Trina Bowen, a physician at OAHC since 1985 has even had the honor of delivering the children of babies she delivered”, reports Mary Szecsey, Executive Director of West County Health Centers.

In 2015, Occidental Area Health Center provided healthcare services to its 4,222 patients, 90% of whom are low-income or uninsured with 12,775 patient visits and 1,811 mental health visits. Over the years, OAHC has addressed many special needs in the community, working with local teens to develop the Teen Clinic program, now based in Forestville, and working with the Graton Labor Center to provide services for day laborers. Comprehensive, quality and accessible health services provided for the entire community distinguishes OAHC as one of the most well-established and recognized community based healthcare organizations in Sonoma County.

West County Health Centers’ growth, an overall increase of 54% in patient visits in the last 5 years, is also an indicator of the huge need for medical care for local residents as well as a mirror for the spike in the numbers of newly insured patients through the Affordable Care Act who are in need of access to a “Medical Home”.  In 2010 the Affordable Care Act national legislation acknowledged that community health centers such as the Occidental Area Health Center are cornerstones in our nation’s healthcare reform policy. The health center model continues to prove an effective means of overcoming barriers to access including geography, income and insurance status and in doing so, improves health care outcomes and reduces health care system costs

The Occidental Area Health Center will be hosting an open house to celebrate our 40th Anniversary on Saturday, August 27th from Noon – 2pm.  West County Health Centers is delighted to be joined by Congressman Jared Huffman, Assemblyman Jim Wood, Senator Mike McGuire, and 5th District Supervisor Efren Carrillo to acknowledge the Occidental Area Health Center’s 40 years of Service.  Our celebration is open to the public and we expect to be joined by over 100 supporters to honor the Occidental Area Health Center and our patients, staff, volunteers and community and to join us in acknowledging our past successes and celebrate our bright future.  Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be provided.

“Occidental Area Health Center has had a truly lasting legacy and I am very proud and thankful for the clinicians and staff who work there every day providing life-changing support for the residents of this community,” says Ms. Szecsey.