In conversations with board members of the Foundation of OLE Health in Napa, California, one thing becomes clear: these people have a lot of heart, commitment, and good intentions. But it is also clear that Vintner, former OLE Health Foundation Board Chair and fierce OLE advocate, John Shafer, had an enormous impact on the nonprofit organization.
Foundation Board Treasurer Rick Jones of Jones Family Vineyards was recently awarded the inaugural John Shafer Visionary Award recognizing an individual committed to furthering the mission of OLE Health to ensure that high-quality primary care is provided to everyone who lives and works in the communities it serves. Moreover, the award honors the legacy of Shafer.
Regarding the award, Jones shared, “Because John was such an influence in my life, it was simply one of the greatest honors I could have ever imagined.” He and his wife Elaine have also been exceedingly generous with their own money, giving OLE Health roughly $1 million over the years.
Founded by a group of farm worker advocates frustrated by the lack of medical resources available to the Spanish-speaking community in Napa Valley, OLE Health has become a vital source of healthcare for many. It now has five health centers in Napa County: One in St. Helena, one in Calistoga, two in Napa, and one in American Canyon. Seventy-four percent of OLE Health patients live at or below two hundred percent of the federal poverty level, and OLE cares for one out of every four Napa residents and one in three children. In addition, the organization provides care for more than seventy percent of the Medi-Cal population in Napa County. It might be surprising to learn that about thirty percent of Napa County residents rely on Medi-Cal for health coverage.
OLE Health is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), meaning it is a “safety net provider” primarily providing services typically furnished in a non-hospital setting. It is the only FQHC and nonprofit community health center in Napa County. OLE Health accepts Medi-Cal, Medicare, and private insurance and offers a sliding fee scale. All patients are treated regardless of lack of insurance or inability to pay.
When asked how he became involved, current Foundation Chair Darioush Khaledi of Darioush Winery said, “John Shafer had a philosophy similar to mine, and it hit my heart: To help those in need and provide services they otherwise could not reach.”
In addition to Khaledi and Jones, the Foundation’s board comprises a group of individuals committed to supporting the organization’s mission of providing comprehensive healthcare to underserved communities. They work to raise funds and awareness for the organization and provide guidance and support to its leadership team. The overarching principle is that healthcare is a fundamental human right, and everyone deserves access to high-quality care, regardless of income or background. It’s a mission they plan to carry into the future.
Board member Naoko Dalla Valle of Dalla Valle Vineyards explained her reasons for becoming involved. “I loved the idea that they care for everybody, especially those in need; no one is turned away. People think they only care for vineyard workers, but a young woman joined my team who told me that she had gone to OLE Health when she wasn’t working and got excellent quality care.”
Sonia Tolbert, Chief Development Officer for OLE Health, works closely with the board on fundraising priorities and overall direction for the Foundation’s work. She has tremendous admiration and appreciation for their contributions. “We absolutely could not deliver on our mission without community support, and our Foundation Board leads that charge. We are incredibly fortunate to have their time, talent, and dedication – in addition to their generous financial support – and I’m honored to work with them every day.”
One of the unique features of OLE Health is its integrated approach to healthcare. The organization provides full-service primary care that includes medical, dental, behavioral health, nutrition, optometry, pharmacy, pediatric care, nutrition services, care coordination, referral services, and enrollment services (helping uninsured individuals enroll in Medi-Cal and CalFresh). This approach allows patients to receive comprehensive care in one convenient location, making managing their health and wellness more accessible.
OLE Health could not provide all its vital work and services without community support. While OLE Health receives reimbursement from Medi-Cal and other healthcare payors, the reimbursed amounts fall short of the costs of treating its patients. Moreover, many services that make OLE Health special are not reimbursable, such as care coordination and enrollment services. As a result, there is a gap between what each patient visit costs and what OLE Health can recoup, which is partially bridged by philanthropy. And this community support is unique. With OLE Health, there is a true partnership and symbiotic relationship with the community, and it’s a relationship that is being carried forward by the next generation of Napa Valley leaders.
Will Phelps, one of the younger board members, stated, “OLE Health has been a stalwart healthcare provider in Napa Valley for fifty years, and I envision my main role as cultivating the next generation’s awareness of all the good work that OLE is doing for our community to help ensure it is thriving for the next fifty years.”
In many ways, the Foundation Board of OLE Health is like Napa Valley pioneers who laid the groundwork for California’s world-renowned wine country. Both groups were driven by a sense of purpose and a desire to impact their communities positively. And just as the wine pioneers’ ingenuity and sacrifice have created a legacy, the Foundation Board of OLE Health is helping build a healthier and more equitable future for generations to come.
At OLE Health, the patient’s experience is a top priority. Patients are treated with respect and dignity when they walk in the door. Jones noted, “Without OLE, the patient population served would not get primary and preventive care. OLE Health’s services are available regardless of whether they can pay, and they are treated for free.”
The OLE Health staff are just as motivated as the Foundation. Jones said, “The staff’s commitment, from doctors to admissions to accounting, is to the patients.”
Dalla Valle also expressed her admiration for the medical staff at OLE. “I believe healthcare is a human right, and when I started meeting doctors and staff, I was amazed—they are so dedicated.”
SERVICE TO THE HOMELESS COMMUNITY
OLE Health also serves the local homeless population with an on-site clinic at a shelter in Napa. OLE Health Dr. Jen Wilson provides services to individuals at the shelter twice a week. It is more than a job to her; it has become her passion.
“Working with an unsheltered population is very near and dear to me. Knowing how my presence builds trust and allows people who don’t trust a system to be able to engage in a system is what keeps me here. It’s what will make OLE Health my forever place.”
SERVICE REGARDLESS OF DOCUMENTATION
As well as playing a significant role in creating the Foundation, Shafer was especially concerned with services for field workers. Khaledi said, “OLE sees all patients, even without insurance or papers, and we support many farm workers. Everybody’s welcome in OLE Health, the only non-religious health service center in Napa Valley.”
Access to healthcare, regardless of documentation, is a crucial part of OLE Health’s mission. Jones shared, “One challenge we have is to get undocumented people to come in; they resist giving their information. We work hard to make it non-threatening and inform them how strictly we guard patient info and confidentiality.”
MORE THAN HEALTH CARE
OLE’s Napa Valley Vintners South Napa Campus has a community garden to provide fresh produce to those in need but also to provide education on preparing healthy meals and planting a home garden. Darioush Khaledi was so committed to and instrumental in establishing the program, including fundraising and personal donations, that the garden was named in his honor, “Darioush Community Garden.”
“I wanted to address health disparities and help end childhood obesity in the community, and the garden and nutrition services seemed like a perfect way to do that.” When asked how he has successfully raised funds for OLE Health, Khaledi explained, “Many people in Napa are happy with where they are today and happy to give back.”
In addition to programs in the garden, OLE Health provides monthly food distributions in Napa and Calistoga to help struggling families. And through its care coordination team, individuals are connected to other available programs that support transportation, housing, and citizenship.
OLE Health’s integrated approach to healthcare, commitment to patient-centered care, and dedication to serving the community make it a model for healthcare organizations nationwide. Without the vision and hard work of the organization’s Foundation, many in the community may not have access to the quality healthcare they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.