top of page
  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Maneuvering the Maze and Filling a Need!

Who loves filling out insurance forms? Who can deny they’re confusing and very complicated! And don’t miss the deadlines!

Now imagine you don’t speak English or English is your second language. You are low income, uninformed and more than a little desperate. Applications can be intimidating and downright scary.

Well there’s help overcoming the barriers! It comes from the ten dedicated, caring, bi-lingual staff at the Community Health Initiative. Their job is to help adults, children and seniors obtain affordable medical coverage through public or private plans.

Community Health Initiative (CHI) Filling a Need

The organization began about 13 years ago by individuals who realized that children were not having their annual physical exams. They had not received the required immunizations before they entered school. Why? “Because parents were having a tough time taking children to a primary care physician or to the dentist,” explained Elba Gonzalez-Mares, Executive Director.

“They discovered a lot of our children did not have health insurance because the cost of care and premiums can be very expensive,” said Elba.

Children did not have insurance because it was so difficult to enroll. Mom and Dad were trying to make ends meet, and the programs were very complex. A family could have three kids and each one would be enrolled in a different program – medical, dental, and mental health - each is a different application for each child and that could be very daunting.

“For a lot of our families it is a challenge,” said Elba, “and many of our clients are low income, Spanish speakers. So the staff assists clients in filling out the complicated forms and 97% of their applications are approved.”

Elba explained they sit down with families and advise them of the different public programs that are out there, and explain the eligibility requirements. The staff is highly trained to understand all the requirements.

“We do not determine eligibility, we have to work in partnership with the programs that are offered,” explained Elba.

After clients are enrolled, the staff checks in two months after enrollment just to make sure they have their insurance cards, their dental cards, and they know what doctor to go to. And if the child needs vision or mental health, they know there are options for them. 94% of CHI clients indicate having been able to access all the services for their children when needed.

And once you are enrolled, you have to renew each year. You have to provide information that you are still eligible. And every year a child gets older and every year that family’s situation changes. CHI helps with this process.


Elba Gonzalez-Mares and her team do amazing work for our community year-round, but it ramps up now during the open enrollment period.

Open Enrollment ends January 31!

This is the time for people to change plans or if they are uninsured, to obtain coverage.

Also there are people who suffered a loss of income due to the fires and need extra assistance because of unique circumstances.


Client referrals typically come from Family Resource Center Up Valley, and from other community organizations that understand how the program works. They also come from doctors and health care providers.

Program Success

Since 2005, CHI has successfully enrolled over 17,000 children and their families in health insurance, and each year, they enroll 1,000 new children. They screen over 22,000 individuals annually through schools and other outreach events, personal visits, and phone consultations.


Children who have health insurance miss fewer school days, perform better in school, and are healthier. Parents of insured children miss fewer workdays. Healthy kids create a healthy community!

The Community Health Initiative helps thousands of children, teens and their families enroll in free or low-cost health and dental insurance that covers the costs of check-ups, immunizations, doctor and dentist visits, hospital care, medications, and mental health services.

“It means a lot to the staff that the clients trust them,” concluded Elba. “It’s a thrill to be a part of their journeys, and deeply satisfying that our clients feel secure and we are making a huge difference in our community.”

More Information about Community Health Initiative,

Community Health Initiative is a non-profit agency and does not receive state or federal funding

Funding Sources:

Napa Valley Vintners

County of Napa

First 5 Children and Families

Jones Family Foundation

Kaiser Permanente

Syar Industries

Vernice and Gasser Foundation

Generous Donations from the Community

CHI Services

Community Health Initiative offers health insurance enrollment and re-enrollment assistance in Covered California, Private Individual and Family Plans, Medi-Cal, Kaiser Child Health Program and Medicare. They also help clients get dental and vision insurance coverage.

What You Need to Apply for CHI Assistance Proof that you live in Napa County: a utility bill or rental agreement with your name and address

Proof of income: paycheck stub, previous year’s federal income tax return; written statement from your employer stating gross monthly income and when it was earned;


Recent paycheck stub

Self-employed may usethe previous year’s federal income tax return with Schedule C.

Identification document

bottom of page