Putting People First

Peter Long, Ph.D.

As I look back at a very busy and successful year for the Foundation, what stands out in my memory is not an exciting event or convening, not even new research or a critical piece of legislation. There were plenty of each of these. What stands out in my memory are the people at the heart of our work. Every day, we continue working to improve the systems that serve and support low-income patients and survivors of domestic violence.

Sometimes, a goal like this can feel lofty and abstract, but only if we don’t take the time to derive meaning from it, and find the lives that remain at its center. Organizations frequently devise solutions to critical problems, or build systems with few people or families involved, and then wonder why they don’t succeed. Instead of prescribing a single right answer, or asserting an expert point of view, we’re building relationships, and bringing-in the voices that often go unheard.

We believe that to achieve our goals, we need not only bold ideas for systems-change, but to co-create them with the people they’re meant to benefit. That’s why we’re asking questions of low-income patients, and listening to survivors of domestic violence. Do our systems of care meet your needs or aspirations? What’s working? What’s not? What’s missing?

This year, and every year, the Foundation prioritizes open and inclusive dialogue to ensure that each dollar we give has the greatest possible impact for families and individuals.

One of these individuals is a woman in East Contra Costa County. There, the Foundation funds a cross-sector partnership that enables a domestic violence (DV) advocate to work full-time in a hospital and be available to patients in need. One early morning as the DV advocate entered the building, she was introduced to the hospital’s security guard.  She explained her role and how she could help the staff and patients there. Later that same day, the security guard witnessed a female patient walking out with her partner after being discharged. Only a few moments later, he saw the same woman be pushed out of a moving car by her partner, who left her on the pavement as he sped away.  When the security guard rushed out, the woman communicated that she was in an unsafe relationship and needed help.  The security guard called the DV advocate he had just met that morning, and the victim was able to get immediate assistance right then and there.

By expanding a no-wrong-door approach that creates new options and avenues for help, we’re building a systemic response to address and prevent domestic violence so that no survivor gets left behind. This critical work is coupled with the Foundation’s ongoing support for culturally relevant services and practices that meet the unique needs of survivors in diverse communities.

By reimagining our systems of care and support, and lifting-up innovative solutions for health and safety, we can improve lives. Take, for example, the young man in Santa Cruz who has struggled with substance abuse for years, but never had the coverage to get the support he needs. During a routine check-up, his doctor suggested he meet with their substance abuse counselor, who’s now a part of their care team as a result of a Foundation grant to support behavioral health integration in community health centers. That day, without having to leave the four walls of the clinic, the young man got help, treatment, and hope for the very first time.

Creating a stronger behavioral healthcare system is a long-term prospect made more real by the recently-approved Drug Medi-Cal Organized Delivery System waiver. As policy change continues to support practice change, we will work with providers across the state to ensure that this type of care is more accessible and more effective so that our most-complex patients have the support they need to reach their full potential.

These two examples of impact are multiplied thousands of times across the state. Advancing patient engagement and survivor experience is an evolving process, but it starts with building systems of care that put human beings first. Individuals, not just programs and institutions, are the starting point for the fundamental improvements that we are committed to achieving.

Through our strategic grantmaking, we have the potential to make a difference for a woman in East Contra Costa County, for a young man in Santa Cruz, and for many more vulnerable and low-income Californians.

Recent tragedies remind us that what’s most precious and important are people, families, and communities. Together, we can help them be healthy and safe.

To a peaceful and productive year ahead,


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