By Assemblymember Marie Waldron
Millions of Californians live in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), many located in rural parts of the state, like in my district. Improving access to healthcare for those living in underserved areas has been a major focus for me in Sacramento.
The California Health Foundation notes that rural residents including tribal lands, are often confronted with serious obstacles when trying to access healthcare. These include provider shortages, hospital closures, higher maternal morbidity and mortality rates, and limited access to treatments for opioid disorders. Several areas in San Diego County located within the 75th Assembly District have been identified as HPSAs, including Campo and Barona/Moreno in East County, and Pala in North County.
Another big problem in rural areas is lack of Medication Assisted Treatments (MAT) for opioid use disorders.
Considered the gold standard for treating opioid abuse, access to MAT is often limited because of the general lack of healthcare resources in rural areas and the long driving distances involved that limit effective and timely adherence.
Lack of access to healthcare is often compounded by closure of rural hospitals. Between 2006 and 2023, at least 10 rural hospitals have closed throughout the state. Many existing hospitals are now in financial distress, and more closures may occur.
One solution is more rural clinics. I recently participated in a meeting at the San Ysidro Health Clinic in Campo, one of over 20 San Ysidro clinic and program sites located throughout the county. San Ysidro’s Campo clinic serves residents of the Mountain Empire in southeast San Diego County – a region identified as a Health Professional Shortage Area.
As Vice Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, I will do everything I can to encourage and support healthcare providers like San Ysidro throughout California so that residents of underserved rural communities can receive the care they need.
Assemblymember Marie Waldron, R- Valley Center, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the cities of Poway, Santee, portions of the City of San Diego, and most of rural eastern and northern San Diego County.