Oregon House Clinic 3/9/16

Sierra Family Medical Clinic expands to Oregon House
by Emily Lavin/ elavin@theunion.com |

Dr. Peter Van Houten, Sierra Family Medical Clinic's founder and medical director, left, and Steve Weber, the clinic's chief executive officer, inside the Sierra Family Medical Clinic's new facility in Oregon House.

Dr. Peter Van Houten, Sierra Family Medical Clinic’s founder and medical director, left, and Steve Weber, the clinic’s chief executive officer, inside the Sierra Family Medical Clinic’s new facility in Oregon House.

Sierra Family Medical Clinic is now providing comprehensive local medical services to the rural community of Oregon House.

The clinic, which has operated on Tyler Foote Road on the San Juan Ridge for more than 30 years, opened a second clinic at 8676 Marysville Road in Oregon House, an unincorporated community in Yuba County, on Dec. 1. This Saturday, the clinic will host an open house at the facility from 10 a.m. to noon.

Though the Oregon House facility has only been operational for about three months, its services are already in demand.

“There’s been a lot of word of mouth,” said Dr. Peter Van Houten, the clinic’s founder and medical director. “I was actually surprised at how quickly the schedule’s been filling.”

For the community in Oregon House, the clinic’s opening has been a long time coming. Sierra Family Medical Clinic has long been a prominent fixture on the Ridge, offering integrated health care — medical care, behavioral health and dental services — all in one location. That clinic logs about 20,000 patient visits a year, and provides services regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.

The clinic’s board of directors began considering expanding to Oregon House in 2012, after the physician who previously occupied the Marysville Road building closed the practice and a group from the community approached Sierra Family Medical Clinic about opening a facility.

The board was in favor of the idea, and committed to the expansion, said Steve Weber, the clinic’s chief executive officer, who was serving as board treasurer at the time.

“People over here really deserve to have local medical care, and they didn’t have it,” Weber said of the board’s thinking.

But Sierra Family Medical Clinic experienced a financial setback over the next couple of years, Weber said. In order to comply with a government requirement, the clinic was required to switch over to an electronic health record system. In addition to the cost of the hardware and software to implement the change, the clinic couldn’t see as many patients throughout the day as the system was implemented and staff was trained to navigate it, decreasing the revenue the clinic was able to collect from patient services.

“We didn’t have the money to go ahead and get this thing going,” Weber said.

That changed last fall when Sierra Family Medical Clinic was recognized as a federally qualified health center by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, a distinction that awarded the clinic a nearly $1.2 million grant, reimbursement for services provided under Medicaid and opportunities to secure additional funding in the future.

The clinic included its proposed expansion to Oregon House in its application to the department of health and human services.

Once the clinic received FQHC status, it had about 90 days to open the Oregon House satellite facility. The Oregon House clinic is currently open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and offers primary and behavioral health care. Weber said the facility hopes to offer dental care starting in the next month or so, when a trailer containing a fully outfitted dental suite is transported from the San Juan Ridge clinic, and  the Oregon House clinic hires a dentist and dental assistant.

The clinic will likely be open to patients for 30 hours a week sometime this year, Weber said, and then it will potentially expand hours beyond that next year.

Van Houten said the goal for the clinic is to eventually have 2,500 patients on the clinic’s patient list at any one time, though that will likely take a couple of years to achieve.

The clinic has hired an outreach and enrollment coordinator, who will help people navigate the process of signing up for Medi-Cal or affordable care, and help them understand the care options available to them.

Both Van Houten and Weber said the clinic’s staff is excited to serve Oregon House, noting the community has waited patiently for several years for the clinic’s doors to open.

“It feels really good,” Weber said. “It feels like we honored our commitment in return for the local people here honoring a commitment to us.”

To contact Union Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.