The Central California Asthma Collaborative (CCAC) — an organization that provides education and direct services emphasizing the prevention and management of asthma — celebrated the grand opening of its new Bakersfield office location on Friday. During the grand opening, the CCAC received awards from the offices of both Senator Hurtado and Assemblymember Rudy Salas.
“We’re so excited to be opening our new office here in Bakersfield,” stated Yanni Gonzalez, a marketing and communications director at CCAC. “We’ve been working in the area for a very long time and it’s been a blessing to see our team grow and our capacity grow in the area. We’re looking forward to doing so many more things and keep moving forward.”
In addition to providing education and services, the CCAC builds regional capacity and advocates for sensible policies that improve health and address inequities by reducing environmental impacts. The organization was started in 2011 with a mission to increase capacity for asthma-related education and advocacy in Fresno and Madera counties, as well as organize and support other county asthma coalitions across the San Joaquin Valley.
“We provide services to uninsured as well as Medi-Cal patients who usually don’t receive access to these kinds of programs. Our goal is to help them not only understand their chronic disease but to learn how to manage it,” announced Graciela Deniz-Anaya, the AMP/CARES Program Manager. “Not just in their homes but overall, in their environment, in their communities, and being advocates in their own communities for change — a change that will make sure their children and their children’s children don’t have to deal with asthma. That’s what we want. We want to continue that for our kids.”
Asthma is a long-term condition that affects the airways in the lungs, causing them to not be able to function as well as they should. While, in some cases, asthma can be minor, in others it can impact daily activities or lead to life-threatening attacks. Because of Kern County’s poor air quality, residents are more susceptible to being diagnosed with asthma.
Emily Duran, the CEO of Kern Health Systems (KHS) — a CCAC partner — spoke during the CCAC grand opening, noting that Kern County natives know that asthma is a serious concern when it comes to the valley. Duran stated that small cities like Arvin are at the top of the nation when it comes to asthma issues and diagnosis, and revealed that children dealing with asthma suffer at an exponentially larger rate.
“I have a younger brother and he has asthma and it was very bad. My mom went to the doctor and the doctor didn’t really say anything, ‘Here’s his inhaler, try to make sure he doesn’t have any triggers.’ What are the triggers? A lot of individuals in our communities don’t even know what those triggers are,” Duran commented. “My brother loved stuffed animals and 100% that was a trigger. And just not knowing that it was just a way of not fully understanding some of these things that truly impact the conditions of an individual.”
Duran continued by saying that children not being able to run during P.E. due to asthma leads to other issues like obesity and that this chronic disease can create an ever-evolving cycle.
In 2022, the CCAC’s Asthma Impact Model (AIM) program — which utilized social impact bonds to support community-based asthma management programs and implement a home-based, multi-component asthma intervention — was renamed the Comprehensive Asthma Remediation and Education Services (CARES) program.
The CARES program is an in-home, asthma preventative care program aimed to improve the management of asthma and reduce asthma emergencies. Under this plan, CCAC patients enrolled in the program receive asthma remediation equipment and supplies:
- HEPA Vacuum Cleaner
- Allergen-impermeable mattress and pillow covers
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM) services
- MERV13 HVAC Air Filters
- De-humidifier, Humidifier, or Air Purifier
- Asthma-friendly cleaning supplies
- MDI Monitoring Device
- Spacer for Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI)
- Other home remediation services deemed necessary
The CCAC Kern County Coordinator Janet Herrerra added that, with the CARES Program, Community Health Workers go out into their patient’s homes to help identify triggers that may be inside and to provide them with the information — and equipment — needed to help adjust to living life with asthma.
During the grand opening, Deniz-Anaya introduced a local patient, Ana Mariscal, who shared her story as someone who has been newly diagnosed with asthma. Mariscal received her first asthma diagnosis in February of this year after living in Kern County for 20 years. Because she didn’t know how to care for asthma prior to her diagnosis, Mariscal reached out to her health care provider and organizations in her community in search of more information and was referred to the CCAC.
Because her asthma had gotten so bad, Mariscal was forced to leave her job working with the community when breathing became increasingly more difficult for her and caused more fatigue. CCAC helped Mariscal learn to use her medications and properly clean the air in her home which has helped return a sense of normality to her life.
“I have a lot of friends and family members who also suffer from asthma who thought that moving away would be helpful, but giving them the education, and resources is actually what would help them,” Mariscal stated.
Eligibility for this program can be checked by contacting the CARES office at 559-272-4874, visiting www.CCACCARES.org, or emailing CARES@centralcalasthma.org.