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West Valley health clinic project moves forward

SAN JOSE – Santa Clara County and the Foothill-De Anza Community College District have agreed to pursue the development of a full-service County health clinic on the De Anza Community College campus in Cupertino. The agreement was announced earlier today at the County’s Board of Supervisors meeting by Dr. Jeff Smith, County CEO.

The County will now undertake a feasibility study to bring a Valley Health Center clinic to the De Anza campus. The announcement comes just days after the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees approved a Letter of Interest (LOI) with the County for the project.

“It’s essential that all our residents have access to primary and preventative health care. Otherwise, they wait too long, end up seriously ill, and then find themselves in the emergency room,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who serves as Chair of the County’s Health and Hospital Committee and authored the proposal to bring health care services to the West Valley.

“Having conveniently located, preventative health care takes some of the stress and worry out of visiting a doctor. It allows people to focus on their health, family, work, and school. Healthier people can go to work or school and contribute to the community, instead of being unnecessarily sidelined by illness,” said Simitian. 

The intent is for the County and the Foothill-De Anza Community College District to work together on the planning and construction of a building that will provide health care services to both the college campus population, as well as the surrounding West Valley community and residents. Services would include primary care, mental health, imaging, laboratory, and pharmacy. Additional services will also be considered based on further review and analysis. To support the College District’s health care profession programs and curriculum, the County and District would develop education/internship programs within the clinic.

“A clinic partnership with De Anza is a smart choice – it’s good for folks in the immediate area, and throughout the County, local students and our future medical professionals,” said Simitian. “A clinic on campus could provide essential medical services and help connect students with other public resources.”

While some residents of the West Valley communities of Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga have access to quality health care through established providers, there are almost 90,000 people who earn less than 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL). While this level of income may be too much to qualify for public health insurance plans like Medi-Cal, it can be difficult to obtain adequate medical care when a family of four is making less than $111,000 in a high-cost area like Santa Clara County.

“Our community offers so much to our residents, yet lots of families still don’t have convenient access to medical services,” said County Supervisor Otto Lee, who serves as Vice Chair of the County’s Health and Hospital Committee, and who co-authored the proposal with Simitian. “This proposed clinic will help students, working families, seniors, and many more get medical services and health care closer to home.”

Currently, there are no County or community clinics located in the West Valley. There are more than 43,000 residents in the area who receive health care coverage through Medi-Cal and more than 40,000 people who receive other public benefits who could benefit from having a County clinic close to where they live or work.

“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to work with our County partners to provide critical access and affordable medical care on our De Anza College campus,” said Patrick Ahrens, President of Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees. I want to thank Supervisors Simitian and Lee for working with us on this ‘first in the state’ partnership that will have exponential potential to serve our community for years to come.”

Simitian first introduced a proposal in October 2021 directing County administration to report to the Board with options for building a North County/West Valley primary care health clinic. In response, County administration identified options for building a primary care clinic in the northern portion of the County and in October 2022 the Board approved a long-term lease for a facility located on the Palo Alto-Mountain View border.

After assessing public interest for a clinic in the West Valley, Simitian and Lee (in April 2022) requested that County administration explore options to create an additional clinic in the West Valley and issue a LOI to the Foothill-De Anza Community College District (in June 2022). A feasibility study is the next step in moving this project forward. The County’s feasibility analysis is expected to be done by the summer of 2023.

Simitian said he was, “pleased that both organizations have formally expressed their interest in delivering a clinic,” and was “particularly pleased that every member of the Foothill-De Anza Board expressed a real enthusiasm for the project.”