December 18, 2015 Marianne McGee
New Pediatrician also hired to fill community need
The Mendocino Coast has experienced a great deal of change in the health world and now it is experiencing another one as Paula Cohen retires as the Executive Director of Mendocino Coast Clinics (MCC) and Lucresha Renteria assumes the leadership role as of January 1, 2016.
Both Paula and Lucresha began working for the health clinic, which was then operated by Mendocino County, in 1992, so they were part of the shift to the non-profit structure when it was incorporated as Mendocino Coast Clinics in 1994. While Paula was the first Executive Director and has grown MCC over the years, Lucresha began as a translator and worked her way through many positions, the most recent being as Director of Administrative Services, essentially overseeing day to day operations.
They have operated as a team over the years, guiding the growth from 2,564 patients per year with 7 staff to 11,300 patients with over 53,225 visits and a staff of 130 people. From the old County Public Health building on Fir Street to operating 3 sites, including the expanded South Street facility, Sequoia Circle and Cypress Street, Paula and Lucresha have directed the building and renovations projects which have enabled MCC to achieve this extraordinary growth.
Paula’s service to the community includes her tenure on the Boards of the California Primary Care Association, the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Advisory Board, Safe Passage and the Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County. She is also the newest Board member of the Community Foundation of Mendocino County. In 2004, she was recognized by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors as an “Individual Who Has Made a Significant/Valuable Contribution to Public Health”.
“It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve the Mendocino Coast community for 24 years,” said Paula Cohen. “It has been amazing to experience this expansion of staff, services and patients, juggling the community needs, government regulations and resources available. I am very confident that Lucresha will provide the experienced leadership MCC and the community need to fulfill our mission of building a healthy community”, she added.
While Paula is retiring from MCC, she is assuming the role of Executive Director of the Alliance for Rural Community Health (ARCH), which is a network of Mendocino County health care centers that collaborate to improve the health of our communities by strengthening and supporting the efforts of their members to provide access to quality health care for all. The current focus of ARCH is to work with other rural counties to assure that people in those areas have access to the same services urban residents receive.
“The health world is changing and challenges arise daily as access increases while regulations become more complex,” said Sara O’Donnell, MCC Board Chair. “While we are sad to see Paula retire, our working relationship with Lucresha Renteria has given us the confidence that we are extremely fortunate to have her on board, ready to take the helm. We will also have the benefit of working with Paula through ARCH, so this change is a win-win,” she added.
In 2009, Lucresha Renteria was a member of the first Clinic Leadership Institute program, which was created by UCSF (University of California at San Francisco) and the Blue Shield Foundation to “identify future leaders in the health center movement” and provide them the education and support to take on these challenges. Lucresha has been a First Five Commissioner from the Coast since 2004, and has served as Chair since 2009.
“I am excited to assume the executive leadership of MCC and am very appreciative for all I have learned over the years working as a team with Paula,” said Lucresha Renteria. ”There are many tough challenges ahead for our coastal community, especially as our population ages and many local medical providers retire. MCC is proud to announce that we have hired Vivian Belmusto, MD as a pediatrician to help fill this gap. My commitment to the staff, patients and community is to continue to provide excellent health care while responding to the needs of the community as they grow and change,” she added.
While the only public recognition of Paula’s achievements will be at the January 29, 2016 Cioppino Dinner, all are welcome to donate to Mendocino Coast Clinics in her honor. For more information on MCC programs and services, please call 964-1521.