City updates human services strategic plan, spotlights new Axis dental clinic

Council also hears from 4th-graders advocating straw ban, presents commendation for Bob's World

The Pleasanton City Council on Tuesday approved a comprehensive update to the city's Human Services Needs Assessment Strategic Plan, a document designed to guide city officials' decision-making in providing vital support for local residents in need.

Completed after a 16-month community outreach and drafting process, the updated plan outlines strategic priorities and proposed action steps for the next four years to help fulfill human services needs in critical areas such as health care, disability access, homelessness and support for service providers.

"Need in this community is something that I think we miss a lot. We have a lot of people in need. We have a lot of seniors in need; a lot of under-served in need," Councilman Jerry Pentin said while thanking the Human Services Commission and city staff for their efforts with the plan update.

"And all I know is from where I'm sitting, hopefully we can give you the support and eventually the money to try to bridge some of the gaps," Pentin added.

The 45-minute public discussion in the council chamber Tuesday night included highlighting a success story of the city's and region's support for a Tri-Valley service need: the new Axis Community Health dental clinic in Dublin.

"This project has been a long-sought dream," Axis CEO Sue Compton said in a statement ahead of her presentation to the council.

"We knew this would take a long time and a lot of effort, but the result is in. Axis patients can now get the dental care they need right here in the Tri-Valley," she said, noting that the new clinic had a soft-opening this week within an initial focus on youth and prenatal patients.

Axis serves around 15,000 low-income Tri-Valley residents with medical and behavioral health services, but for decades the nonprofit had been unable to offer dental services, usually forcing their in-need patients to travel out to Highland Hospital in Oakland or a Fremont clinic for dental work -- often coupled with a one- to three-month wait time.

Surveys found that more than one-third of Axis patients referred for dental care were unable to get care due to the distance and long waits for appointments, Compton said.

In recent years, Axis was able to really focus efforts on establishing its own dental clinic, aided greatly by grant funding from the cities of Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore and Alameda County, along with $100,000 grant from Palo Alto Medical Foundation, according to Compton.

But it took nearly three years to find an adequate clinic site, given Axis's key requirements for affordability, accessibility, ample parking and being along a regional bus line, she said.

Then about a year ago, Axis officials found a vacated dental site for lease in the Almond Plaza on Regional Street in Dublin. The 2,240-square-foot office space already had necessary water and gas lines, wall alignments and other structural components for a dental practice.

After several months of negotiations, the nonprofit struck a 20-year lease agreement with the property owner that included an option to buy dental equipment abandoned by the previous tenant, Compton said.

Following final refurbishments, equipment purchase and staff recruitment, the clinic welcomed its first patient in a soft-opening on Tuesday morning. The clinic will focus on treating children and pregnant women in need initially before expanding to fuller capacity in the weeks and months ahead.

The staff is led by dental director Patrice Lane, DDS, and services include preventive care and treatment for basic dental needs such as fillings, extractions and uncomplicated root canals. Axis' goal is to serve 2,000 patients in the first year, Compton said.

"This is really exciting. This has been the unmet need -- dental -- going back to the beginning of my service on the Human Services Commission, more than 20 years," Councilwoman Julie Testa said. "Every year, dental was the unmet need that couldn't, as much as we tried to bring people together, it wasn't happening. It's really remarkable that you guys have accomplished this."

Council members also said it's important to spotlight success stories of public funding helping support new or expanded services in the community, which in the end is a main reason for creating and updating the strategic plan.

The now-adopted 2018-22 Human Services Needs Assessment Strategic Plan included a refocused mission statement: "To support high quality human services so Pleasanton residents can meet their basic human needs with dignity."

It restates the six most critical needs categories from the previous plan -- health care and behavioral health, disability services and accessibility, food and nutrition, youth services and senior services, and workforce development/unemployment -- while adding two new critical needs: homelessness and supporting service providers' critical initiatives.

Other key additions in the update includes identifying new systemic challenges: the lack of a centralized database between service providers and issues with transportation and connectivity of citizens to service.

One new proposed action the city will undertake under the updated plan is looking at its Human Services Commission grant-making protocols and contracting process to see if multi-year contracts could be offered to providers of certain core safety-net services, as opposed to the more time-consuming annual renewal application process.

The city distributes nearly $1 million in grants each year to nonprofits from federal, state and local funding sources, according to City Manager Nelson Fialho, who noted that priorities and objectives in the updated strategic plan will help drive those grant award decisions.

In other business

* The council accepted the city's 2017-18 comprehensive annual financial report, which again received a clean and unmodified opinion from the city's auditors at Maze and Associates.

The 2017-18 budget year marked the 21st consecutive year that high-quality governmental accounting and financial reporting earned the city the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada.

* Council members welcomed a contingent of young students from Jennifer Bell's fourth-grade class at Walnut Grove Elementary School.

The class recently watched the documentary short film "Straws," which focuses on the impact of single-use plastics on the environment, and a handful of the students spoke to the council about the effects on the environment, the oceans and wildlife and their desire to inspire action in their city.

Mayor Jerry Thorne reminded the students and their families that the council couldn't discuss the issue because it wasn't listed on Tuesday night's agenda, but council members agreed to consider including a potential plastic straw ban among the city's priorities when they formulate their two-year work plan next month.

* The council presented a special commendation to Bob and Cathy Stanley, whose annual Christmas decoration display marked its final holiday season in 2018. "Bob's World," which drew an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 visitors each year to the Stanleys' house on Calle Reynoso, was a holiday tradition for Pleasanton families for more than 30 years.

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