A Snapshot of North County Health Services:
North County Health Project, Inc., d.b.a. North County Health Services (NCHS) began in 1971 to serve primarily the rural areas of Ramona, Pauma Valley and San Marcos in North San Diego County, California a region commonly known as “North County”. Because physicians practicing in these communities were unwilling to treat low-income patients, a small group of health professionals came together to contract with UCSD to provide the much-needed health services. Advisory boards were formed in designated service areas, healthcare needs assessments completed according to the needs and priorities set by each individual community and a Registered Nurse began healthcare services in Pauma Valley and Ramona. In 1973, NCHS became a Community/Migrant Health Center (PHS Section 330/329) and incorporated as a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. The catchment area given to NCHS was the entire North County region from the coast to the mountains with the service area 60 miles east to west, and 35 miles north to south. The area includes two Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA), North County East and West.
Responding to the need to provide health services to low-income patients continues to underlie the mission of NCHS “to improve the health status of our diverse communities by providing quality healthcare that is comprehensive, affordable, and culturally sensitive.”
Since this early inception, NCHS has grown to twelve health centers to fully cover the gaps in health services throughout the North County San Diego and Riverside County. These centers are located in six cities serving rural, semi-rural, suburban and urban populations in Ramona (1), San Marcos (2) and Perris (1) and coastal cities of Encinitas (1), Carlsbad (1), and Oceanside (6, including a dental site). In addition, NCHS operates two fully-equipped, mobile clinics which provide both medical and dental services to better serve migrant farm workers and their families as well as schools and others who have significant access barriers. In 2011 NCHS served more than 57,000 low-income, working-poor residents and provided over 250,000 medical, dental and mental health visits. Of the total patients, 16% are migrant and seasonal agricultural workers.
Today, the North County area is more urban, with a steadily growing population. But one thing remains the same – after almost 40 years too many people go without the health care they need because they have limited access and limited income. The lack of accessible and affordable healthcare services drives NCHS’ efforts to extend services and coordinates with other government agencies, for profit and not-for-profit organizations and schools to make medical services available to everyone regardless of financial and medical insurance status. NCHS is not a free clinic, but for those who lack health insurance, our patient registration staff will conduct a financial screening to determine co-costs of care (based on sliding scale discount); furthermore, staff will attempt to use government health coverage programs in the event the person meets the qualification criteria. NCHS also writes grants to secure local public and private funding to subsidize costs and scope medical, dental and vision services prescribed.