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By Rick Monroe
Special to Village News 

Programs for Wellness Center reviewed by hospital board


Last updated 6/2/2021 at 4:39pm

Village News/Shane Gibson photo

A Chair Yoga class, taught by Sandra Buckingham, is held at the Fallbrook Wellness Center Wednesday and Friday mornings.

Plans for the best use of the Fallbrook Wellness Center were discussed May 26 by directors of the Fallbrook Regional Health District in a Zoom special meeting without the board prioritizing program priorities. The district bought the property at 1636 E. Mission Road in 2017. Since then, the board has wrestled with deciding the best ways to utilize the building for health and wellness programs.

The district is a public agency with a mission of "Promoting health for the residents of Fallbrook, De Luz, Rainbow, and Bonsall." FRHD provides funding to numerous community health contract holders to facilitate a wide range of innovative health and wellness programs that promote healthy lifestyles, physical health and fitness, emotional balance, and the provision of basic needs.

Fallbrook Hospital was closed in November 2015 and the property and hospital buildings were sold two years later. With a portion of the proceeds of the sale, the district purchased a 4.5-acre property with a church, parsonage house, and eight-room preschool for the intended purpose of developing a Community Health & Wellness Center.

Use of the facility has been reduced with COVID-19 restrictions. The district has been providing testing and vaccinations for COVID-19 the past several months, but just now other programs like Chair Yoga exercise classes are returning.

In July 2020, a consulting company, Catalyst, a Haskell Company in San Diego, was contracted for $218,000 to direct the planning by identifying the type of programs most desired by the community and board. Included in the plans – which are still preliminary – are things like financial literacy education, mindfulness-based stress reduction, diabetes prevention and self-management, community-based art programs, Health for Life, Fit & Strong, and mental health advocacy. These activities are among the "finalists" for the programs that will likely need more planning and/or facility improvements.

Catalyst has held community meetings to secure feedback about what residents would like to see for the district and has worked with staff and a steering committee of the board members to present its recommendations to the board.

At the board meeting, directors discussed the cost differences of having their own programs compared to collaboration with existing programs in other areas, as well an update by the two Catalyst representatives, Debbie Jacobs and Sharon Conklin. However, at the conclusion of the nearly three-hour presentation, the board delayed prioritizing the list of proposals.

Rachel Mason, executive director of the district, said the steering committee and/or a full board meeting will be scheduled for further review of the plans.

The district has funds remaining from the sale of the hospital, as well as operation money from its annual contributions through property taxes.

When the contract was approved last year, Catalyst estimated its services would be completed in six months. And even though there are still substantial decisions to make, the board was presented with a list of "Just Do" activities.

Mason said in an interview after the meeting that the "Just Do" option is something that could be started as soon as COVID-19 is over.

The "Just Do" list discussed at the meeting included digital literacy support and training, family events, fresh food events, outdoor event space, community-based events, group exercise, outdoor walking paths, screenings/vaccines, support group meetings, and youth social programs.

Conklin noted that some of the activities would require building improvements, which is something the board will address in the future.

She said something like group exercise classes, maybe children and parents together, is something to consider. She also noted that the outside grounds are something to be utilized.

Board chair Howard Salmon said it was important to address transportation needs and solutions for residents without a vehicle.

Another item discussed was the need to include activities for youth. Having both a safe place, without peer pressure, was identified, as well as mentoring programs and a large, comfortable place to just hang out, with ping pong and activities like a movie night.

The report also covered the desire to have family events, for holidays and cultural activities, both indoors and outside as long as shade and water was available. Building a pavilion was also mentioned.

Suggested community-based events included safety and fire safety classes, cyber security training, blood drives, CPR training, and legal advocacy.

Conklin said the facility needs would be for large spaces, private rooms, public and social spaces, a demonstration or commercial kitchen, and outdoor improvements.

She recommended selecting programs that have a good track record and may not be available at other locations in the community. She said it was important to have well-rounded programs that are open to many residents.

Mason said she would consult with transportation agencies for options.

Board member Stephanie Ortiz said it was important to have multi-cultural opportunities.

Jacobs continued the presentation about recommended programs plans for evidence-based programs that are harder to implement.

The Catalyst presenter explained the programs should be sensitive to cultural, disabled and literacy considerations, and align with criteria identified by the board.

She discussed several programs recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She suggested having two different programs for diabetes. The first would be educational, showing how to help individuals prevent their diabetes from becoming advanced. The second would be a self-management program showing how to cope with diabetes II.

Board member Barbara Mroz suggested considering both options.

Ortiz asked that the board also consider a successful program in National City called Kitchenista. Mroz also said she heard good reports about the National City outreach.

Jacobs said mental health is even more important now with the impact of isolation from COVID-19 restrictions. She said a San Diego program called Mental Health First Aid may be a program for partnership.

Board member Kate Schwartz-Frates said she was aware of that program and liked it because it uses community ambassadors to encourage individuals to reach out for help.

The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program was also discussed. Jacobs said the treatment program is aimed at reducing stress via meditation classes. Yoga is part of the program.

Mroz said anything that helps reduce anxiety and stress is useful, including prayer. "Stress kills," she said. Schwartz-Frates agreed that the MBSRP was an excellent program.

Board member Jennifer Jeffries suggested it may be a class that could be taught by college interns.

Jacobs said the arts element was something a lot of parents would like to see, especially for youth performances. Conklin added that youth are looking for a way to express themselves.

Other programs discussed were Fit & Strong and Healthy for Life.

Jacobs said another area of interest shown by residents was financial literacy. She said the San Diego Financial Literacy Center helps county residents to increase their financial literacy, free of charge, through three programs that could possibly be brought to the Wellness Center.

Fallbrook Wellness Center

Village News/Shane Gibson photo

The Fallbrook Wellness Center is used for a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, Friday, May 28.

Salmon said he was delighted with the presentation, but felt he needed additional reaction from the community before ranking the programs. "There are many compelling programs," the board chair said. "They all should be done.

Ortiz reminded the board that the programs need to be done in both English and Spanish.

Mason asked if classes should be free or have a price. Jeffries said maybe a hybrid pricing option could be considered. Schwartz-Frates agreed, suggesting a mix of donations, subscribers, sliding scale, partners, and free.

"There should be no cost for all services," Ortiz said.

Deciding on the cost options can be decided later, but the board's next step is to establish priorities, something Catalyst reported would be difficult.

A pdf document of the presentation given to the board is available on the district's web page,


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