A Revival: California Rural Health Association Reorganizes
Running on a shoestring budget with a volunteer board and no current staff, the association is regrouping after becoming solvent in July with the help of several grants from large healthcare organizations and private donors.
After closing its doors early last year, the California State Rural Health Association has recently been making a comeback.
CSRHA, which laid off staff and closed its office in Sacramento as a result of insufficient funding and increasing debt, is regrouping with a 13-member volunteer board and a newly launched website, according to California Healthline.
Grants from the California Wellness Foundation, the National Rural Health Association (NRHA)—of which CSRHA is a state member—and several private donors helped the organization pay off its outstanding debts, largely in the form of unpaid rent, in July of this year.
“The short version is we had a near-fiscal-death experience,” board member Will Ross told California Healthline. “We persevered and negotiated and volunteered and received a few very generous donations, and now we’re here.”
With no immediate plans to hire staff members or open a physical office, CSRHA is planning a conference in December and will work to achieve its original mission of promoting healthy rural communities via information exchange, collaboration, and advocacy among rural populations and organizations in California—a state in which 44 of its 58 counties are considered rural, board member Gail Nickerson told California Healthline.
“About 5.5 million Californians live in a rural area, accounting for 14 percent of the state’s total population,” Nickerson said. “That’s a lot of people who need good, preventive healthcare just like those in the cities.”
Rural healthcare providers face a number of unique challenges compared to their urban counterparts, according to NRHA. For example, only about 10 percent of physicians practice in rural locales, which are home to one quarter of the U.S. population. And people living in rural areas are less likely to be insured or covered by Medicaid benefits than those living in cities.
Although rural healthcare organizations and providers are often members of other statewide health organizations, such as the California Hospital Association, CSRHA aims to increase and cultivate the networking and knowledge share specifically among those in rural areas.
“The purpose of the California State Rural Health Association is for those in the rural health community to share cross-cutting experiences,” Ross said. “Instead of networking with the hospital that is an hour away, how about networking with the primary clinic across the street?”