A Revolutionary Approach to Care

Deputy Director and Chief Operations Officer Anita Zamora Explains How Venice Family Clinic is Transforming Health Care Through New Programs and Partnerships

Venice Family Clinic’s Strategic Plan through 2020 has, at its heart, a “Revolutionary Approach to Care”.

Q: What does that mean to you?

I think the revolutionary approach to care strategy charges us with three areas to grow and expand. The first is comprehensiveness of services: making sure there’s enough of not just primary care, but also dental, vision, mental health, and behavioral health for our patients and our community.The second is geographical expansion: making sure we’re meeting the need in areas where people are not being served. And then the third is about addressing social needs that impact health. This is a really big area of expansion for us. We’ve always recognized that these things impact health, but we haven’t had such a concerted effort like this before.

Q: Why is this the moment to make the effort?

We convened experts across different fields to contribute to our strategic plan, along with community members, staff, and providers. With all of this input, it became clear that we need to acknowledge that there are broader factors that affect health than just the care that we provide. Health is physical, social, and emotional. For us to live our mission, we have to make sure we are expanding to encompass these things. Our staff and providers will tell you that these social factors are the biggest barriers they face. If somebody doesn’t have access to food, what are they going to do? Can they even take their medication appropriately, much less actually get healthy?

Q: So where do you start?

We’ve screened 2,000 patients with a survey called PRAPARE (Protocol for Responding to and Assessing Patients’ Assets, Risks, and Experiences). It was this survey that allowed us to identify our primary areas of focus for new programming: housing, food security, and trauma. Once we started screening and connecting people to resources, we found out that of those patients without access to food, about half don’t even know about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, commonly known as food stamps. That’s a big deal, and a pretty obvious resource that exists for people.

We are starting with systematic screening because we are the first point of entry to access many services. We have to make sure that patients have the set of interventions they need, because that’s how they will ultimately get healthy. Those might be programs that we can offer or they might come from a partner agency. From this point, we will begin to build protocols around these services. Just like we have evidence-based medicine, we can have evidence-based and standard protocols to address social needs.

Q: Homelessness and Food Insecurity have a clear line to health. But why trauma?

We’re beginning to understand how trauma—even past trauma—can actually impact people’s health and well-being in very extreme ways. For example, when researchers surveyed 9,500 people about their adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their health as adults, they found that people with seven or more ACEs had a 360% higher risk for heart disease even if they didn’t smoke, drink, or carry extra weight. I was so struck by that example—it makes the reason for addressing trauma so clear.

Q: What would you say that Venice Family Clinic is doing that is already revolutionary?

There have been key moments in Venice Family Clinic’s history when we made the decision to expand. When we launched our mental health care program in 1993, it was a controversial decision at first. But we forged ahead because the connection to health was clear.

We are still one of the few clinics that has a robust behavioral health program that is well-integrated with primary care and offers psychiatry services.

Venice Family Clinic is known for seeing the challenges early on, embracing them, and trying to grow our response as much as we can. That’s what happened with SUMMIT (substance use treatment), Common Ground (HIV/AIDS services), and Children First Early Head Start, and we are always using these decades-old programs as models to inform our new work.

Our teaching kitchen is another great example, and a good place to look at growth. What is it that we’re really trying to do? We’re trying to connect people to food any way that we can. With better access to food, we can help our community learn to cook great tasting, healthy meals using the types of groceries they can get with SNAP.

Q: What aspects of revolutionary care will grow in the years to come?

We want to look at social needs from a population level. In the same way we now look to make sure all of our diabetic patients have their required screenings—foot screenings, retinal photos, blood sugars tests—we want to do that for these social needs. Also, what I mentioned before about creating protocols—so that everyone has the same frame of reference.

Ultimately, for 48 years, Venice Family Clinic has been a place rooted in a deep compassion for our community members. We are providing care to people who don’t have many resources, who are vulnerable, and who might not have anywhere else to go. We will create programs to address their health needs and work with existing organizations to complement these services. Venice Family Clinic is leading the way to make sure everyone has access to quality health care, and we’re taking a comprehensive and holistic approach to what it means to be healthy.