The Little Clinic That Could. OLE Health Celebrates 50 Years of Caring for Our Community
OLE Health now offers medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, optometry, and nutrition, caring for 40,000 patients per year.
Napa Valley is a world-class travel destination, famous for a vibrant and eclectic wine industry. Those who visit us experience the glamour of the swanky tasting room and curated food and wine experiences. But, those of us who live here know that at our roots, we are an agricultural community. Our economic success rests on the farm workers and other service industry jobs that keep this Valley running. OLE Health provides care to these essential workers that power our wine and hospitality industries, and this year it turns 50!
While much has changed over 50 years, the most enduring characteristic about OLE Health is that it would not be here if not for the support of this incredible community.
In 1972, a group of farm workers in Napa Valley, frustrated by the lack of resources available to the Spanish-speaking community took matters into their own hands. They rallied together, along with a group of forward-thinking vintners, to create a small clinic that would offer healthcare to the Hispanic community at the Rutherford Information Center. Clinica OLLE, named for Organizacion Latino Americana de Liberacion Economica, was staffed entirely by volunteers.
Today, that little clinic has grown into six health centers in two counties, with a staff of more than 300 individuals dedicated to caring for everyone in the community. But this reality was far from guaranteed in 1972. In fact, many times throughout the years, OLE Health almost closed its doors. It was because of the unwavering support of the community that OLE Health hasn’t only survived but thrived.
In its first years, OLE grew rapidly as word spread about the clinic. Clinica OLLE wasn’t just providing healthcare; it was connecting people to other resources and helping them assimilate by learning English, apply for citizenship, and more. By 1975 the space at the information center no longer suited the nearly 250 plus families served by the clinic. Clinica OLLE was given a new space above the La Luna Market in Rutherford.
By 1980, the clinic had been finding its footing and had sufficient funding for three paid staff members, including a director, family nurse practitioner, and assistant. Then, disaster struck when a fire destroyed the facility. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the community to step in and help OLE keep seeing patients. St. Helena Hospital loaned OLE Health a modular unit that provided a home for the clinic and its patients for 11 years.
Despite having a place to see patients, in 1981 Clinica OLE lost crucial funding it has secured from the California Rural Health Division, throwing its existence into question for the second time in less than two years. Once again, it was the community that came to the aid of the fledgling clinic. The board of directors turned to private fundraising and were able to secure funding that kept the clinic operating.
It was around this time that Clinica OLLE began serving all low-income and uninsured residents of Napa Valley, and it changed its name to reflect that. Community Health Clinic Ole was born.
Wanting to create a more secure future for the clinic financially, its leadership sought to add Community Health Clinic Ole as a beneficiary of the Napa Valley Wine Auction in 1984. This signaled a recognition that remains today: without OLE Health, there could be no Napa Valley. Despite expansion and changes over the years, OLE Health always has and always will care for those who make Napa’s economic engine run: farmworkers picking grapes, hospitality workers serving both front and back of house in hotels and restaurants.
In 1986, the OLE Health Foundation was created in order to ensure a more stable financial future and provide a consistent way for the community to support us. Thankfully, the days of being on the brink are far behind OLE Health, and it’s been steady growth since.
In 2005, OLE Health became a Federally Qualified Health Center, meaning it would receive federal funding to support operations, have access to participate in federal programs, and operationalize many practices already in place, such as offering a sliding scale and not turning away people without insurance or who are unable to pay.
The federal funding and grants help, but its work would not be possible without the continued support of a variety of donors, businesses, and partners.
Over the years, one partner has been invaluable: The Napa Valley Vintners. They have given roughly $40 million to support OLE Health’s operations and expansion. The Vintners have helped provide OLE Health adequate facilities to meet our growing needs to serve more patients. With support and leadership from John Shafer and Richard Walton, the Vintners leased OLE Health the Pear Tree Lane building in 2002 to OLE Health, and provided $6 million for its newest facility, the Napa Valley Vintners South Napa Campus, that opened in 2019.
Beyond the generosity of NVV, OLE Health relies on grants, donations, and corporate partnerships to help offset more than $10 million needed annually to offer comprehensive care and to fulfill its mission to help to everyone who walks through its doors, including those unable to pay. OLE Health kicked off its 50th anniversary celebrations May 11-15 with a series of fundraising events to help address that gap. Thanks to the generosity of attendees and the community, $1.7 million was raised to continue to ensure quality healthcare to those who live and work in Napa Valley, regardless of ability to pay.
As OLE Health continues to celebrate this milestone anniversary, it does so with gratitude for all the members of the Napa community. Thank you on behalf of everyone who works at OLE Health; everyone who receives care from OLE Health; and everyone who has a little more peace of mind because OLE Health is there when needed.
To thank the community for its support: OLE Health is having a free event
August 7 • 10am-2pm
health screenings • games • food • prizes • & more
South Napa Campus at 300 Hartle Court • Napa