Healthy As We Wanna Be

Have you wondered what’s meant by Community Wellness and Population Health?

Traditionally, doctors focused on curing what ails us. They didn’t concern themselves with our diet, exercise, economic status, social support, and environment. They were paid for the services and procedures they used to cure us. As the science of medicine evolved, they came to rely more and more on diagnostic tests of all kinds, medical tools and devices, and a burgeoning number of pharmaceutical remedies – more and more services and procedures.

Now the shift is to promoting activities and practices to improve the health of the general population, thereby decreasing the costs of maintaining people’s health.

I read somewhere about the problem of low-income elderly Chicago residents suffering from the hot summers there, often ending up in the ER for visits costing thousands of dollars each, when what they really needed were window-mounted air conditioners costing only a few hundred dollars. The problem was that while Medicare covered the ER visits, neither they nor other funding sources covered the cost of air conditioners.

Similarly, food programs serving the poor have long relied on excess agricultural commodities, easily stored foodstuffs such as sugar, flour, cornmeal, processed cheese, milk powder, and peanut butter, resulting in a diet high in sugar, starch, and fat and very low in the vitamins and minerals needed for good health.

Our community has been ahead of the curve in many health promoting strategies. The nature of our locale meant that early inhabitants worked vigorously to gather or produce their food and construct their shelters. More recently, it attracted new residents who valued its potential for a healthy, nature-centered lifestyle, many of whom brought with them a commitment to organic foods, herbal remedies, and physical fitness. Because of our geographic isolation, we are by necessity a can-do community.

From these roots have blossomed dance groups and classes for all ages, cooking clubs, hiking groups, disc golf courses, and a plethora of other health-building activities, as well as private businesses providing yoga and exercise opportunities from aerobics to Zumba, as well as cardio and weight training equipment.

One such business is Southern Humboldt Fitness. South Fork High School’s gym renovation included a beautiful weight room, but no funds for equipment. When they upgraded their equipment recently, SoHum Fitness owners Spring and Justin Cogswell demonstrated their commitment to community wellness by donating cardio equipment such as stationery bikes, treadmills, and elliptical trainers, plated weights, benches, and weight training machines to fully equip the South Fork weight room.

Other local organizations have also stepped up to meet our community’s challenges. 

Redwoods Rural Health Center (RRHC), the Southern Humboldt Family Resource Center (FRC), a program of the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District (SHCHD), and Southern Humboldt Unified School District (SHUSD) work together to identify needs and provide programs delivering nutrition education, social support, counseling, and help with basic food and housing needs.

The FRC manages activity programs from infant/toddler play groups to Youth Alive!, which offers teens positive activities such as art classes and outdoor adventure trips as well as the annual Safe and Sober Grad Party. RRHC produces Family Fun nights, DJ dance parties, and other multi-generational gatherings. They sponsor MSW Counselor James Holland’s social skills/healthy relationships presentations at FRC toddler playgroups and in SHUSD K-3 classrooms, as well as Nutritionist Gina Paine’s talks on healthy foods in the play groups, Redway School classrooms, and the South Fork Senior Class Nutrition Program.

Joining with the Redway Baptist Church, Rotary, and the Garberville Veterans Group, the Community Credit Union, and others, the FRC supplies seasonal fresh produce to families in need, weekend food for school kids, holiday meals, and school supplies. SHCHD and RRHC also augment the exercise classes available in our community by providing free classes such as Tabata and Restorative Movement (SHCHD) and Pilates (RRHC). 


We at the Healthcare District are eager to identify other ways to foster community wellness. Would you be interested in a lecture series on medical topics such as Addressing the Opiod Crisis, Maintaining Cardiac Health, or a subject you suggest? Would you like to join a diabetes support group, or would you prefer to attend a series on nutrition, menu-planning, and cooking for diabetics? How about a short series on smoking cessation strategies and support? Are you eager for a Mommy-&-Me exercise class that takes place while your older kids are in school, or is there another fitness activity that would better fit your needs?

We want to offer the activities, support, and education you are seeking to become as healthy as you can be. Contact our Outreach Manager Julia Minton at 707-223-6630 or to share your ideas for helping to make Southern Humboldt the healthiest community possible.

Barbara Truitt, Foundation Director, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District

For more information about how we care for the community we're privileged to serve, watch for our columns or visit our Facebook page 

Lab Tests Made Easy


Did you know that ours is the only medical lab in Humboldt County that is open seven days a week, 8 am to 5 pm? And we offer a wide range of lab services with no appointments needed for testing.


We’re very happy to announce that our lab at Jerold Phelps Community Hospital is now federally certified to conduct SAP DOT screenings for CA DMV commercial driver’s license holders. From local delivery drivers to long-haul truckers, school bus drivers to Humboldt County and CalTrans employees, the jobs of many in our community require Class A or B Commercial Driver’s Licenses, and they need these screenings to keep their licenses in good standing. Other SAP-certified labs in Northern California are far away, and most are not open on weekends. DOT medical exams will also soon be available here, as our clinic’s Family Nurse Practitioner Sarah Beach has nearly completed her DOT certification. We’ll keep you posted.


While simple pregnancy tests have long been available in grocery stores and pharmacies, an enhanced diagnostic pregnancy test is now available in our lab.

The hCG quantitative test can confirm pregnancy and determine the approximate age of the fetus. It can aid in diagnosing an abnormal pregnancy or a potential miscarriage as well. These tests are also sometimes performed to screen for early pregnancy before a woman undergoes X-rays or other treatments that could possibly harm a developing fetus.

Here’s how it works: The Quantitative Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) blood test measures the level of hCG present in a blood sample. HCG is a hormone that is produced during pregnancy by cells in the developing placenta. The placenta is the sac that nourishes the egg after it’s fertilized and attaches to the uterine wall. During a pregnancy, hCG can first be detected in a blood sample about 11 days after conception. Normally, levels of hCG then double every 48 to 72 hours, reach their peak at around 8 – 11 weeks after conception, and then decline and level off, remaining steady for the rest of a pregnancy.


You may know our long-time Phlebotomy Technician Todd Gregory. A doting father of four, Todd is especially valued here for his ability to set children at ease for their testing, taking time to explain the procedure, and offering them their choice of brightly-colored elastic bandages. For one young patient who needs frequent blood draws, Todd fashioned a little flower at her blood draw site, creating what she called “a garden on my arm.” 

Blood draws become increasingly challenging as people age and their veins become more fragile. We’re fortunate that through his extensive work with our Skilled Nursing Facility patients, Todd has become especially skilled with and sensitive to all our elderly patients’ needs.


From left to right: Paul Laceda, Joy Rubia, Pepe Olano, and Todd Gregory

From left to right: Paul Laceda, Joy Rubia, Pepe Olano, and Todd Gregory

Medical laboratory staffing is difficult throughout the US. With 70% of a physician’s medical treatment decisions influenced by lab test data, the current shortage will only get worse, as 12,000 new lab professionals are needed annually in the US, while only about 5,000 enter the field each year.

We are very fortunate to have assembled our current team of certified Clinical Laboratory Scientists over the last year and a half.

First to join us was Pepe Olano, our Lab Manager. Having worked in major metropolitan hospitals in London and Manila, Pepe was looking for a change of pace when he came to the US. His first job here was in the lab at Hodgeman County Health Center in Jetmore, Kansas, population 867. He enjoyed the lack of traffic and the small-town atmosphere, but he found the countryside monotonous.  

Asked what he likes about being here, Pepe said “When I moved to Garberville, I made the best decision ever. SHCHD has a culture of teamwork where all departments help each other for better patient care, unlike in big hospitals where departments treat each other as competitors. We are supported by our administration and by the community. And who wouldn’t get hooked on the very scenic views of Humboldt County?”

As soon as he was settled here, Pepe set to work recruiting other CLS’s. First to come was Joy Rubia, whom Pepe met in Kansas where Joy was the Lab Director at another facility. Rounding out the team is Paul Laceda, whose certification as a CLS came more recently. Together, they constantly explore ways to improve or expand our lab services and to update their knowledge to provide the best possible care.


If you need lab services, come through the Emergency Room entrance on Locust Street to register. If the work was not requested by one of our SHCHD providers, be sure to bring your physician’s or employer’s order when you come.

Barbara Truitt, Foundation Director, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District

For more information about how we care for the community we're privileged to serve, watch for our columns or visit our Facebook page 

Walking Each Other Home

Talking this week with Joe Whitney, Office Manager of our local Heart of the Redwoods Community Hospice (HRCH), gave me a new appreciation for the services our Hospice provides and the role Jerold Phelps Community Hospital’s Emergency Department plays in caring for Hospice patients.


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Medicare benefits to cover hospice services were authorized by Congress in the 1980s. A decade later, Hospice of Humboldt opened a satellite office in Garberville, but it soon closed because our population of eligible patients was not sufficient to sustain a Medicare-reimbursed hospice.  A group of locals then formed Heart of the Redwoods Community Hospice (HRCH), which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. As an independent, non-Medicare-reimbursed hospice, HRCH is free to establish its own guidelines for care. They do not require patients to have a prognosis of six months or less to live, and patients may continue with curative treatment; but with that freedom comes responsibility for self-funding.

As a non-Medicare hospice, HRCH is barred from charging for services of any kind and relies mostly on our community for donations, augmented by occasional small grants. This funding covers salaries for four nurses, a bereavement counselor/volunteer coordinator, and an office manager. Augmented by trained volunteers, some of whose loved-ones were Hospice patients, HRCH provides in-home care to its patients as well as counseling and educational materials to them and their families. They also host bereavement support groups and events such as their Dia De Los Muertos celebration in late October and their December Evening of Remembrance gathering. 

There are now approximately 500 hospices in CA, but only a few are independent hospices such as ours.  All are in rural CA.  HRCH, Gualala, Ft Bragg, Ukiah, and Bridgeville hospices are members of the recently formed NorCal Volunteer Hospice Society, which is set to hold its annual meeting here in September. 


Although Joe has lived in SoHum for 35 years, his involvement with Heart of the Redwoods Community Hospice began relatively recently. Joe grew up in Chicago, moved to California to attend UCLA, and then moved here in 1983 to be the caretaker for some friends’ property. He soon bought his own property in Ettersburg, where he lived for 25 years before moving to Garberville five years ago. You may have gotten to know Joe when he worked at Music For Little People in the early 90s, or when he was a co-owner of Tierra Madre Nursery in Whitethorn, or during his tenure at Sanctuary Forest.  Joe joined the Hospice Board about five years ago, and he has been its Office Manager for nearly four years.

In the last several years, Joe developed asthma due to food and other allergies. Though he is under the care of an allergist, watches his diet carefully, is on maintenance medication, and has a rescue inhaler, twice in the last few years he’s had to go to the ER because of breathing difficulties. His last episode was triggered by smoke from the Santa Rosa fires this past fall. Joe lives alone, and for him, the thought of driving an additional 50 miles to seek help when he can’t breathe is terrifying.

Joe’s own dependence on local ER services makes him especially appreciative of the role it plays for Hospice patients, as even people who are dying may need emergency medical care. Hospice patients have come to our ER to be treated for such things as fall injuries, panic attacks, allergic reactions, arrhythmia, and infections that could lead to sepsis.

Heart of the Redwoods Community Hospice describes itself as “neighbors helping neighbors to face illness and death with grace and strength.” Their mission is “to provide education, empowerment and support to patients, their families and the community throughout the dying and grieving process.” For more information about HRCH programs drop by their office, 10-3 M-F, call them at 707-923-7276, email them at, or visit their website or Facebook page.

SHCHD is honored to work with HRCH to care for the community we are privileged to serve. For more information about the services we provide, visit our website at or call us at 707-923-3921.

Barbara Truitt, Foundation Director, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District

For more information about how we care for the community we're privileged to serve, watch for our columns or visit our Facebook page 

Why we work at SHCHD

People are the heart of healthcare. Here at the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District, nearly 100 people work in our hospital ER, clinic, skilled nursing facility (SNF), and all their support services to care for our community around the clock, every day of the year.

Writing this column about why our employees work here has been a treat, as so many of my co-workers have been eager to share their opinions. I wish I’d had room to include all they had to say.


We range from those who’ve been on staff for 20 years or more to the 22 people who were hired in the last year to work in positions ranging from Clinic Physician to Hospital Cook to Skilled Nursing Facility Activities Director to Nurses with various certifications. Some of us were born and raised here, and others came from as far away as the Philippines. Like the other healthcare providers in Humboldt County and across the country, we work with per diems (as-needed employees) and locum tenens (practitioners on temporary contracts). Together we have nearly 400 years’ experience at SHCHD, along with an additional 150+ years of relevant experience in other settings.


Our Visiting Nurse puts it this way: “I value the ability to deliver supportive holistic nursing care that also allows for the development of meaningful relationships with my patients and their families. SHCHD is a positive place to work, with competitive wages and benefits, and coworkers who are warm, friendly, respectful, and a good bunch of folks to work with!”

Our Clinic physician commented that she enjoys this community and likes helping people connect with the holistic providers here.

A 5 ½ -year SNF nurse adds “I feel honored that SHCHD has me in their employ as a nurse. There is a saying in Southern Humboldt -- we take care of our own --, a close knit mentality and a strong sense of community. When it comes to feeling like a large family confined into a building, Jerold Phelps Community Hospital captures that to a tee.”


Says a former locum tenens radiology tech now on staff here, “In my traveling experience, and of all the hospitals I have worked at, this is the friendliest, most patient-oriented of hospital of them all.” 

A 6-year administrative employee said this: “The District provided my father with services that allowed him to spend the last years of his life in our home, and nothing can replace that valuable time we shared.  He told me often how the staff here treated him so well.”

Echoing many other comments, one of our clinic nurses said “I have heard patients remark many times on how well cared for they feel when they come here, either to our ER, clinic, or outpatient services.”


Many on staff applied here for the good pay, now starting at $15 per hour, as well as the excellent benefits we provide to both full and part-time employees.  Along with our medical, dental, and vision insurance, our employees pay no copays or deductibles for services they receive here. But the teamwork, dedication, and family feeling among co-workers, as well as the respect and support they receive from their supervisors, are the reasons why most of them stay.


Southern Humboldt is not for everyone. Some people find our facility too small and our area too rural and remote, with not enough shopping and entertainment and too few housing options. For others, working at SHCHD is a step on a career path to a larger, more mainstream facility with more opportunities for advancement.

On the other hand, a Registered Nurse who has served in key positions in her four years with us had this to say: “This first nursing job was supposed to be a short term stepping stone. However, I have grown to be committed to the needs of the community as well as my beloved co-workers. We're always a family here, and I very much value that we are stand-alone and not incorporated with a larger network like Sutter.”

This week, beloved Emergency Room Nurse Billie Bachman marks 25 years of service, and retirement is now on her horizon. She says it has been an honor to serve her neighbors and friends through the years, and the camaraderie makes fellow staff members feel like a second family.

Without the specialty techs such as respiratory and 12-lead cardiac techs found in larger hospitals, nurses have to be self-reliant.  To Billie, “Performing more aspects of patient care makes our ER both more challenging and an especially rewarding place to work.”


For more information about employment opportunities, click here

Barbara Truitt, Foundation Director, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District

For more information about how we care for the community we're privileged to serve, watch for our columns or visit our Facebook page 

Year in Review, 2017

2017 was an eventful year! We welcomed new medical staff and instituted improvements to important Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District services and operations.  


Dr. Rucker joined us this fall as our new Clinic Medical Director. With longtime ties to our community, she is an especially good fit and an enthusiastic participant in our efforts to make Southern Humboldt the healthiest community possible.  Long-time SHCHD nurse Sarah Beach obtained her certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner this summer. Now a full time provider in our clinic, she joins Dr. Rucker, FNP Barbara Hayes,  and Physician’s Assistant Linda Candiotti, who returned to our staff this year after battling leukemia. In other good news, Dr. Gadallah is exploring ways to return for part-time work in both clinic and ER after having taken a leave of absence to attend to family needs.

Dr. Newdow continued as our Hospital & ER Medical Director. Dr. Shu and newly hired Dr. Irvine are also regular members of our rotating ER-certified medical team.


We now have three Clinical Lab Scientists on staff, enabling us to keep our lab open 8:00 to 5:00, seven days a week, no appointment needed. If the tests you need have been ordered by a non-SHCHD provider, be sure to have the order transferred here during that provider’s business hours, or bring along a copy of the order when you come.


We created a photo wall so we can all match names to faces. Next time you’re in the building, ask any staff person to direct you to the hallway where these photos are displayed.

Jessica Willis, who had worked in Outreach, accepted an appointment this fall to the SHCHD Governing Board. We thank Jessica for stepping up to this important and challenging public service.

We also welcomed Julia Minton as our new Outreach Manager. Julia is a longtime community organizer and media consultant whom you may have heard on KMUD.


Joe Rial hit the ground running this year as our SNF’s Activities Director, instituting programs to improve our residents’ lives. We now have a library card that all residents can use, we facilitate Skype sessions for those who can’t visit in person, and staff uses the District-owned car to take residents on errands and outings.


2017 was a big year for in-house accountability and transparency. All departments joined the Quality Improvement Team to share their goals and their progress toward them.  A grant-funded all-staff training in customer service was preceded by a baseline patient satisfaction survey; a follow-up survey will measure that training’s effectiveness. Other metrics compare us to our healthcare peers. Watch this space for a column describing our Quality Improvement efforts in more detail.


The FRC provided holiday meal baskets for over 600 individuals in 140 families, along with gifts for almost 350 children, and they collaborated with the Garberville Veterans Association on the hundreds of meals served at the Mateel on Thanksgiving and Christmas.


We painted our building inside and out.  We renovated our courtyard to be a safe, accessible, and inviting area for strolling SNF residents and for gatherings of all kinds.  Supported by a generous donation from our Foundation and help from the Lost Coast Interpretive Association, we filled the beds with lovely native perennials.


The long-awaited CT Scanner project is near completion. After years of study, planning, and regulatory hurdles, we broke ground on the CT scanner site this fall and poured concrete in late December. We look forward to offering state-of-the-art CT scans for our ER and clinic patients, as well as referral patients, in early spring.


Our dedicated IT Manager Jason Dockins has brought virtually all IT maintenance tasks in house and added redundancies, resulting in significant cost savings and shorter, less-frequent down times when problems occur, contributing to improved staff productivity and morale as well as better patient experiences.


Our CEO Matt Rees lobbied for years to make small rural hospitals like ours eligible for a program providing cash incentives for achievements that bring healthcare costs down by fostering healthier populations. Granted this eligibility in 2016, we’ve earned over $1.5 million in the last two years. Vigilant cash management enabled us to participate in another program that provides returns well over 50% on short-term investments, generating over $3 million in 2017.


The failure of the funding measure we placed on the ballot last spring made it clear that we need to communicate better with the community we serve. Since then, we’ve focused on addressing your concerns and on sharing more information about the services we provide. Perhaps you’ve received a phone call or a survey in the mail.

We responded to concerns about our X-ray/radiology pricing by reviewing charges for those services in hospitals from Ukiah to Arcata, and as a result, we’ve identified ways to price more competitively to make these services more affordable. 

The recent catastrophic fires in many areas of California have drawn attention to the need for all emergency services, including medical. While we hope people will never need emergency medical care, we are here to provide the best care possible in case you do.

For more information about how we care for the community we're privileged to serve, go to our Facebook page or visit our website at We always appreciate your feedback. Please contact CEO Matt Rees at 

Barbara Truitt, Foundation Director, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District

Billing Changes at SHCHD

We at Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District have been reaching out to our community to learn how we can improve the services we provide you. We also work continually to make our administrative procedures more efficient and more cost-effective. Because of the extreme complexity of medical billing, we have relied for years on billing companies which specialize in our field, resulting in better and more prompt reimbursements from insurers, Medicare and Medicaid for the services we provide. Beginning January 1, 2018, we will be served by HRG, a billing company with extensive experience serving facilities like ours: rural Critical Access Hospitals in California and other states in the Northwest.

While our billing and collections policies will remain the same, patients should expect a new format for their bills and statements.  Also, during our transition, initial billings will take longer. This could result in billing delays early in 2018 of 30 to 45 days, but please rest assured that bill collection procedures will be based on the date your bill was issued to you by HRG, not your date of service.

As of January 2nd, patients will have a new primary contact person for their billing questions and concerns who can be reached at 877-673-0903. We all hope this transition will be smooth and error-free, but if you feel your balance isn’t correct or that a payment has not been applied correctly, please call the HRG billing office.

As always, if you’d like to speak to someone here in Garberville about these upcoming changes or about any other billing issues, you may call our Patient Financial Services Manager Jennifer Melvoen at 707-923-3921 ext 293, or email her at

Keeping Healthcare Affordable

Last week I talked about the importance of exercising to maintain your health. Regular medical exams are equally important, to keep little health problems from becoming big ones.  

When I encounter friends at the Healthcare District, I often say “Just here for routine maintenance, I hope,” and the response is usually “Yes.” That’s gratifying, because periodic health screenings, routine lab and radiology exams, physical therapy, and prescription reviews and refills can be a key to maintaining good health. Annual physical exams are important for everyone, regardless of ages, as our healthcare needs change throughout our lives.

Medicare, Medi-Cal, and most private insurance plans cover initial health assessment exams and annual physicals or “well visits.” For those without coverage, both the Southern Humboldt Community Clinic and Redwoods Rural Health Center offer discounts and other forms of financial assistance to eligible patients.


Eligibility for Medicare begins at age 65, or earlier for many people who are on Social Security Disability Insurance.

Did you know that within the first year of obtaining Medicare coverage, all recipients are entitled to a Medicare Welcome exam?

During this visit, your doctor will record your medical history and check your vision, blood pressure, and weight and height to measure your body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat that applies to both men and women. Your doctor will check that you are up to date with appropriate immunizations and with screenings for such conditions as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Your doctor will give you advice to help you prevent disease, improve your health, and stay well. You will also get a written plan or checklist letting you know which screenings and other preventive services you should get in the future, and when.


Medi-Cal, California’s version of the federal Medicaid program, covers individuals and families whose income is at or below 138% of the Federal Poverty level. At this time the Medi-Cal income eligibility threshold is $19,127 per year for an individual and $39,040 for a family of four.

A few years ago, the state mandated that all Medi-Cal coverage must be administered by an intermediary. In many counties, the intermediary is a private health insurance company or a “business process services” company. We are fortunate that in Humboldt County, our intermediary is Partnership Healthplan of California (PHC), because PHC is a non-profit community-based healthcare organization committed to nurturing the health of all its members and the communities they reside in.

PHC contracts with the State to administer Medi-Cal benefits through local care providers to ensure Medi-Cal recipients have access to high-quality, comprehensive, and cost-effective healthcare, covering over 560,000 Californians. Originated in Solano County in 1994, PHC now provides services to 14 Northern California counties - Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Marin, Mendocino, Modoc, Napa, Shasta, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Trinity, and Yolo – each of which has a vibrant local advisory board.             


For some who have no insurance or have high deductible plans, getting these exams can be costly. We at SHCHD don’t want cost to prevent you from obtaining the care you deserve, so we’ve developed a number of programs to help reduce these costs.

-- Quick-pay discount: Uninsured patients can obtain a 20% discount for paying at time of service or within 30 days of their first billing statement date.

-- Voucher Program: Credits equal to the amount of SHCHD parcel tax payments can be applied to the bills of property owners, their renters, or their dependents.

-- Special payment plans: Low-income uninsured individuals and families can apply for extended, interest-free payment plans of no more than 10% of their monthly net incomes after essential living expenses.


To learn more about your eligibility for SHCHD’s cost-saving programs, call our Patient Financial Services manager Jennifer Melvoen at 707-923-3921, ext 293.

To schedule an exam, call the appointments desk at Southern Humboldt Community Clinic at 707-923-3921, extension 221.

Don’t wait until you have pressing health concerns; join us now in practicing wellness.

Barbara Truitt, Foundation Director, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District

For more information about how we care for the community we're privileged to serve, watch for our columns or visit our Facebook page 


Get Moving Again in 2018

Just in time to help you make good on your New Year’s Resolutions, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District is sponsoring free, twice-weekly Restorative Movement classes at the SoHum Yoga Studio in the Meadows Business Park.

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Most people occasionally fall ill or get injured during their lives. When that happens as we age, it can be hard to regain our strength and resume our full range of activities.  We want to be more vigorous but lack the energy to get started; we want to exercise but worry we might re-injure ourselves. Sometimes we think we’re just too old to get fit again.

Not so, says Gerontologist Alicia I. Arbaje, MD, MPH, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “A lot of the symptoms that we associate with old age -- such as weakness and loss of balance -- are actually symptoms of inactivity, not age.”


Taught by long-time fitness and yoga instructor Ann Constantino, Restorative Movement is not your typical exercise class.

Restorative Movement classes are suitable for all ages and abilities, but they are especially beneficial for those dealing with aging, stress, or physical limitations. During the one-hour session, participants will work with simple, rhythmic, and gentle movements designed to pass under the radar of old patterns of pain and discomfort. The idea is to do less, with less effort, to bring the body to a kind of reset. In addition to the movements, there will be guided relaxation and breath work, both proven methods of stress management. The class will also include some balance and bone building exercises.

Classes will be taught with participants seated in a chair or on the floor, and will involve some standing to allow for bone-building postures and balance work. Modifications can be made to accommodate almost any limitations. Please let the instructor know if you have any restrictions from your healthcare provider.

Participants should wear comfortable, non-restrictive clothing and have a relatively empty stomach. All necessary equipment will be provided by the studio.


A SoHum resident since 1973, Ann attended Miranda Junior High and South Fork High School. She became involved in youth sports when her son Galen began to play. In addition to coaching youth soccer, basketball, and baseball, Ann played in the women’s softball league and in indoor soccer leagues. She’s also the longtime coach of South Fork’s girls’ soccer team, its Athletic Director for 11 years, and an ACE Certified Personal Trainer since 2001. 

Ann has done yoga all her life and used yoga poses for warm-ups and cool-downs with the kids, but it wasn’t until a mom said “You’re going to teach me that” that Ann began leading regular community yoga sessions in the high school library. That led Ann to pursue formal yoga training, to move her classes to So Hum Yoga, and ultimately to do Prajna Yoga SATYA training, restorative program based on the work of Moshe Feldenkrais and Thomas Hannah, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has taught yoga and restorative movement community classes in Southern Humboldt since 2005.

A number of local people have already seen benefits from the restorative classes.

One student said "I am in my seventies and, thanks to Ann's help, I have been able to remain quite active... Chronic lower back pain has gone from all day every day to only once in a long while. I highly recommend this!" Another said, "I went to Ann's restorative class with some reservations. Once I started I was totally hooked, and try my best to not miss a class. Ann's gentle approach makes the class a pleasure for my aging body, while still increasing my body awareness and flexibility bit by bit." A third regular attendee noted that "When I first began working with Ann and yoga I had to hold on to walk down the two steps that separated one level of my house from the other.  And I was taking Ibuprofen several times a day. Now? No Ibuprofen and I have no problem walking down (nor up!) stairs." 

Beginning January 2nd, these free classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30-2:30 p.m. at SoHum Yoga, 1150 #5 (Behind Greenwired) on Evergreen Road in the Meadows business park between Redway and Garberville.

Please call (923-7227) or email ( with any questions. Advance sign-ups are helpful but not necessary. Just contact Ann.

Barbara Truitt, Foundation Director, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District

For more information about how we care for the community we're privileged to serve, watch for our columns or visit our Facebook page 

Welcoming Dr. Rucker


Longtime residents of Southern Humboldt may have noticed a familiar face in town lately. Dr. Mylene Rucker, who practiced at Redwoods Rural Health Clinic nearly 30 years ago, has recently joined SHCHD’s team as Medical Director of our Southern Humboldt Community Clinic in Garberville.

Dr. Rucker grew up in Los Angeles. In the late 1970s, as part of a cultural exchange program between Watts and Garberville, she visited here and fell in love with the redwoods and the community.

In 1989 when she saw and applied for a physician opening at Redwoods Rural Health Center (RRHC), she was pleased to find that Allan Katz, whom she’d met on her first visit to Garberville, was Executive Director of the bustling clinic. Though she only stayed a year due to the challenges of juggling her full-time position with homestead life as a single mother far from family, she has maintained friendships with local residents through the years.

For Dr. Rucker, coming back to Garberville provides her with a perfect opportunity to use her varied experiences in healthcare and community development to provide compassionate care in an area facing uncertain times. She sees our aging rural population, limited local healthcare services, homelessness, and isolation as challenges that must be met holistically. She was glad to learn that the District sponsors wellness activities, that the Family Resource Center is a District program, and that we are actively seeking ways to collaborate with RRHC and all our local health-related organizations to help SoHum become the healthiest community possible. She is also delighted to be working with our other three Clinic providers Linda Candiotti, PA-C, Barbara Hayes, FNP-C, and Sarah Beach, FNP-BC, all of whom she describes as “very accomplished.”


Dr. Rucker’s lifelong passion for travel and exposure to other cultures began in her youth when, as an undergraduate at University of Kansas, she spent a year in Ghana.  She has since traveled to China twice, to several European countries, and back to Ghana, usually to aid in healthcare-related community development or as part of cultural exchange programs.

Her post-graduate education having been interrupted by marriage and the births of her two children, Dr. Rucker was a Certified Physician’s Assistant for several years before completing her medical education at UCLA and Charles R. Drew University, where she also earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health.

Following her stint at RRHC, Dr. Rucker moved back to Los Angeles. In 1998, she settled in Visalia, CA, where she was affiliated with two local hospitals and practiced in existing Visalia clinics before opening her own, Dr. Rucker’s Wellness Center, in 2001. Having built it to a thriving practice with 3,000 patients, she sold the Wellness Center in 2016 to focus on her own health concerns.

Throughout her wide-ranging practice, Dr. Rucker has treated people from all walks of life, from delivering babies to treating elderly patients. She has also witnessed the devastating health impacts of homelessness.  In treating this wide variety of patients, she has become concerned about the dangers associated with uninformed opioid use, and she is eager to counsel patients on using opioids safely and appropriately.

Limitations of rural healthcare

Dr. Rucker has also particularly enjoyed pediatric and perinatal care, as well as having personally delivered a number of babies, and she shares her long-time friend (and local midwife) Lorraine Carolan’s concern about the lack of labor and delivery services here.  While our local ER does occasionally deliver babies, generally transferring them and their mothers, as soon as they are stable, to a hospital with a higher level of post-natal care than we can provide here, both women understand that we cannot provide regular labor and delivery services here.

Labor and delivery programs require 24/7 on-call access to doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, and midwives with experience in perinatal care. Dedicated labor and delivery rooms as well as access to a surgical suite suitably equipped for Cesarean deliveries are also required. Even if affordable, serious staffing shortages in these professions exist nationwide.  Hospitals around the country have closed because they tried for too long to maintain services that were draining their hospitals of the funds needed to survive.

That being said, Dr. Rucker is glad SoHum healthcare providers are well-trained in pediatric and perinatal care, and she looks forward to finding ways to expand our services in those areas. She also shares a longer term goal with Lorraine to work toward developing a birthing center staffed by local midwives.

Dr. Rucker looks forward to meeting more SoHum community members. She invites you to call for an appointment at 707-923-3921, ext. 221 and “Join me on the journey to wellness.”

Barbara Truitt, Foundation Director, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District

For more information about how we care for the community we're privileged to serve, watch for our columns or visit our Facebook page 

Women's Health Screenings

My first awareness of cervical cancer came when my grandmother was diagnosed with it in the early 1950s. She underwent a hysterectomy followed by radiation treatments, and she lived an active life for another 20 years. It was not until I was researching pap smears for this column that I realized she owed those additional decades of life to having been among the earliest women to obtain a Pap smear.

A Pap smear test is essentially a cancer screening. It is a simple medical test performed on a woman’s cervix to check for signs of any abnormalities such as pre-malignant or malignant (cancer) cells. Detecting abnormalities can lead to interventions that help prevent cervical cancer.

History of Pap testing

Pap smears are named for George Papanikolaou, a Greek scientist who emigrated to the US in 1914. He is credited with founding cytopathology research, which studies and diagnoses diseases on the cellular level. Papanikolaou concluded in 1928 that cervical cancers could be detected by analysis of cells from a cervical smear, but it wasn’t until the late 1940s that the validity of this test gained acceptance, and the lack of labs capable of reading the tests meant that by the early 1960s only 10% of women in the US were being screened regularly. As regular pap testing increased, cervical cancer deaths rapidly declined. Once one of the most common causes of cancer deaths for American women, over the last 50 years the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50%.  Over these decades, protocols for scheduling Pap tests have evolved to include many factors such as age, family history, and history of presence of HPV (Human Papillomavirus). 

Importance of Women’s Annual Exams

What has not changed is strong consensus on the importance of women’s annual health screenings. In your annual well exam, your practitioner will assess family history, other risk factors, and newly evolving conditions to provide an exam tailored to you. Says our Certified Physician Assistant Linda Candiotti, “Your practitioner will guide you to appropriate preventative testing according to your individual needs and preferences.”

Our highly skilled and compassionate medical staff is led by Medical Staff Director Dr. Mylene Rucker. Along with Linda Candiotti, our staff also includes Certified Family Nurse Practitioners Barbara Hayes and Sarah Beach. All of them work diligently via research and attendance at relevant classes to stay abreast of new standards of care in women’s preventative healthcare as well as all the other areas of their practices.

Our Well Exam Promotion for Prevention

We encourage all women to check their own records or call your clinic to see if you are due for your annual well exam.  To promote health and wellness in our community, if we see you for your well exam and a Pap test is performed any time from now through the end of January 2018, your name will be entered for a chance to win a $20 Renner Gift Card or $20 in “Chamber Bucks” to use at any participating local business.

To schedule your appointment, call (707) 923-3925, ext. 221.

Barbara Truitt, Foundation Director, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District

For more information about how we care for the community we're privileged to serve, watch for our columns or visit our Facebook page