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Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry Moves To Fast Track and Fund Disaster Medical Services

For immediate release:

Sacramento, CA – Today, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D – Winters) introduced AB 2576 to improve the ability of local clinics and their providers to rapidly respond and continue providing healthcare to patients during disasters. This bill is the result of lessons learned during the North Bay wildfires last Fall.

In October 2017, Northern California experienced devastating wildfires that claimed 44 lives and destroyed more than 14,700 homes and 728 businesses. As a result of the fires, community health centers in the affected counties suffered significant losses and unanticipated expenses, largely due to site closures. For instance, during this disaster, Santa Rosa Community Health’s largest health center, the Vista Campus, was destroyed due to extensive fire, smoke, heat, and water damage. This meant 24,000 of the 50,000 patients lost their medical home where they receive comprehensive primary care and mental health services, and hundreds of medical and administrative staff jobs that were also displaced.

“At one point, four of my counties were on fire. What remained constant was the hard work I witnessed from our health care professionals and first responders,” said Aguiar-Curry. “Once the wildfires were contained, the relief efforts had only just begun. California’s community health centers remained open, providing health care services and resources to victims of the fires. We need to do all we can to ensure continuity of care during these difficult times.”

AB 2576 will make multiple changes to existing law to allow clinics to better serve their patients during state declared emergencies. These policies include:

  • Allowing impacted health centers to provide and be reimbursed for telephonic “visits;”
  • Authorizing health centers in declared emergency zones to provide and be reimbursed for services performed at shelters, evacuation centers, and patients’ homes; and,
  • Streamlining the process for health centers to obtain temporary pharmacy clinic permits and allow clinics to use mobile pharmacies during the emergency.

These reforms will improve the ability of California’s community health centers to work hand-in-hand with first responders and disaster victims during emergencies.

According to Carmela Castellano-Garcia, CEO of CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates, “The 2017 fire season was one of the worst in history and took a devastating toll on impacted communities, including community health centers. Even though health centers themselves were impacted by the fires, California’s community health centers remained true to their mission to serve their community and remained on the front lines of this disaster to continue to treat their established patients as well as fire evacuees. We don’t often think about health centers as health care first responders, but they have been heavily engaged with their community response partners while continuing to deliver high-quality health care services. We must learn from the lessons of 2017 to make sure California’s 1,300 community health centers are better prepared to continue delivering care during and after a declared emergency.  It is for this reason that we are excited to be partnering with Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry and the Redwood Community Health Coalition on AB 2576. This bill is critical to achieving the timely access to care our communities need when disaster strikes.

“I am truly inspired by the rapid mobilization of health care and emergency response teams that I witnessed during the fires. However, there remains work to be done,” added Aguiar-Curry. “If anything, the recent wildfires highlighted reforms that need to be addressed. Bureaucracy shouldn’t prevent care, and health providers must not be made to worry about being reimbursed for emergency health services while they’re risking their lives to care for their neighbors in a disaster.”

AB 2576 is coauthored by a delegation of legislators, whose districts were also impacted by the recent North Bay fires. These coauthors are Assemblymembers Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) and Marc Levine (D-Marin), and Senators Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg). This bill will soon be referred to its first policy committee, and set for a hearing in the Spring.

Aguiar-Curry represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all of Lake and Napa Counties, parts of Colusa County, all of Yolo County except West Sacramento, Dixon in Solano County and Rohnert Park in Sonoma County.