Sam Fernandez Named Behavioral Health Director


 January 2016

Ukiah, CA – After eleven years as a therapist at MCHC Health Centers, Sam Fernandez, LCSW, was recently named Director of Behavioral Health, replacing his mentor and friend Michael Mabanglo, LCSW, PhD. Fernandez sees this as a wonderful opportunity to work with the healthcare team as they integrate behavioral health services with other MCHC departments to continue the focus on whole-person care throughout all of MCHC Health Centers’ sites.

“Many within our communities have significant, often multiple stressors impacting their health and well-being which include but sadly are not limited to: poverty, trauma, mental illness, substance misuse, and lack of supportive resources. While being mindful of this vital role we play in the lives of the most vulnerable, the Affordable Care Act and health care trends have us transitioning from being primarily a safety net provider to a ‘provider of first choice,’ which more accurately reflects the quality of care we provide for everyone in our community,” he said.

He explained his enthusiasm for rethinking how health care is provided, bringing medical and behavioral health together in a way that better addresses patient needs while reducing the stigma of behavioral health.

The World Health Organization reports that upwards of 70 percent of all visits to primary care (medical) clinics are directly linked to psycho-social drivers. That means that the stressors of life often manifest as physical symptoms.

Fernandez says, “Behavioral health is a term that has a very broad definition; it describes how we care for ourselves and one another—our relationships, hopes, loves, challenges and pain, our choices and the results of those choices. The work addresses our humanness in context.”  

Federally qualified health centers like MCHC Health Centers are moving toward value-based care, which will reimburse treatment based on quality measures and outcomes instead of the number of patient visits. “Value-based care will give us increased flexibility and allow for more creativity in the design of care plans and treatment modalities—this means the ability to tailor a plan unique to the individual, encouraging people to engage more in their own health care with an even greater focus on what matters most to them. When any of us focus on what matters most to us, we are more successful,” he said.

MCHC Health Centers has several initiatives currently in progress, including obtaining Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) recognition for all of its sites; further developing its Integrated Care teams; and implementing the integrated behavioral health (IBH) grant. “The IBH grant supports screening for and treatment of depression, giving the attention this painful and all-too-common condition deserves,” Fernandez said. MCHC Health Centers will also be expanding its services to those who struggle with substance abuse. “To achieve these goals it is important that we not only work more collaboratively internally linking medical and behavioral health, but also to become more closely tied to our community partners,” Fernandez explained.

He continued, “Luckily, I am one of many. Everyone at MCHC plays an important role in delivering care to our patients and giving respect to and treating one another with kindness. It is an honor to be a part of our patients’ lives and the lives of our amazing staff. I am really grateful for the opportunity to serve in this new role.

MCHC Health Centers provides comprehensive health services including primary medical care, pediatrics, dentistry, women’s health, obstetrical care, counseling, psychiatry, chiropractic and specialty care, and looks forward to growing to meet the ever-expanding needs of the communities it serves. Learn more at  

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