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Stephen O'Kane leads Council of Community Clinics into 30th year

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In 2007 Stephen O'Kane became the CEO of The Council of Community Clinics (CCC). He arrived just in time to spearhead the organization's recognition of its 30 years of providing a safety net of health care services to San Diego's underserved and uninsured populations.

"Since its inception," said O'Kane, "the CCC has remained committed to supporting community clinics and health centers in their efforts to provide access to quality care to diverse communities, particularly those with low income and uninsured populations."

In 1980, CCC member health centers served a total of 103,800 patients, which accounted for 200,000 patient visits. In 2006, CCC member health centers served a total of 500,000 patients in 1.4 million patient visits, representing a 280 percent growth. Over half (61 percent) of these patients were Hispanic, 17 percent White, 4 percent Black, 5 percent Asian and 1 percent Native American. Ninety-five percent of the CCC's clinic population is below 200 percent federal poverty level.

According to O'Kane, through local, state and national advocacy efforts, the council works to continually keep important issues facing community health centers in front of public and private decision makers.

"This is extremely important," he said, "as over 600,000 people in San Diego County alone have no health insurance, and it appears that state health care reform proposals, which were a large focus of 2007, will not happen in 2008."

O'Kane noted that the CCC made tremendous gains in 2007, such as securing funding for health centers to expand mental health services to the uninsured and managing specialty treatment pools for breast cancer, HIV/AIDS services, asthma and dental care.

"The CCC used its experience in emergency preparedness to support community health centers during the October 2007 firestorm," he said, "by mobilizing and coordinating the delivery of supplies and equipment. Community health centers provided a variety of services to current and new patients during the fires. In rural East County, Mountain Health and Community Services opened their community center in conjunction with the American Red Cross to provide shelter, food and medical services to 275 evacuees from the surrounding areas."

Judy Shaplin, CEO of Mountain Health and Community Services, emphasized that the unity of the community clinics and health centers throughout the county helps assure that people get their health needs met.

"We all came together to provide a safety net of essential health services to our neighbors, even as we all struggled with evacuations and the dangers of the fires," she said.

The Community Clinics Health Network (CCHN), a subsidiary of the council, has also proved instrumental in supporting the community.

"During the past year, the CCHN has supported quality improvement initiatives, and health centers exceeded national benchmarks in diabetes care," O'Kane said. CCHN also has provided information technology services to health centers, including leading a collaborative process to evaluate electronic health record software and working with health centers to select and implement pharmacy management software.

O'Kane came to CCC with almost 30 years of experience in health care administration.

"He has provided clinical and administrative leadership in virtually every hospital service line, and has gained extensive experience in strategic planning, project management and finance," said Zara Marselian, president of the Council of Community Clinics and CEO of La Maestra Community Health Centers.

Prior to coming to the CCC, O'Kane served as vice president of administrative services for Alvarado Hospital, where he was responsible for strategic planning for the hospital's campus and associated Medical Office Buildings, and assisted physicians in developing new programs.

For 16 years O'Kane served Children's Hospital and Health Center, San Diego (now Rady's Children's Hospital). He also has served as interim chief operating officer at Children's Hospital of Orange County. In this capacity, he was responsible for overseeing the planning, direction and management of all patient care areas of the acute care hospital, as well as ancillary services, general support services, children's advocacy programs, multiple site clinics, mobile health vans, community education and human resource management. In his tenure with Children's Hospital in San Diego, O'Kane served as vice president of ambulatory and support services, regional services and ambulatory/clinical services.

Previous to these appointments, O'Kane served progressively as the assistant vice president and assistant hospital administrator at Valley Children's Hospital in Fresno. He remains active in community activities, including board membership in the YMCA and long-time active participation and board member of the American Lung Association and the American Lung Association of California.

Ellman is founder of Beck Ellman Heald Public Relaitons.

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