October 2, 1998

Operation Samahan Celebrates 25th Year Of Community Service

Twenty-five years ago, in a small downtown office in the city of San Diego, a group of Filipino health professional and paraprofessionals pooled their resources together to meet the overwhelming health needs of many ailing Filipino senior citizens.

Lacking the skills and confidence to tap the different government resources available for them, these seniors had been living on their own trying to cope with their own ailment and diseases.

Today, Operation Samahan has become one of the fastest growing community health centers in San Diego country. Its services expanded in form as their types of clients grew in number. Currently, it operates two clinics—one in National City and the other in Mira Mesa as its clients have grown to include several minority groups: Filipinos, Latinos, Indochinese, Middle Easterners, African Americans.

Translated loosely, SAMAHAN is a Pilipino word which means unity, cooperation and support. It means being available for someone who needs help without any expectation of a monetary reward.

"What had been initially envisioned as a small community project, ran by a group of volunteers, turned into a strong community service center," Gilda Martinez, Social Service manager said.

"While our services are still geared toward health," Martinez continued, "we have expanded those to include social service counseling, senior peer counseling, immigration and naturalization counseling. We also have preventive care programs that aim to educate the community on breast cancer, HIV, TB, and other forms of communicable diseases," she said.

Who may qualify for the program? Operation Sama-han offers its diverse services to the community at large, most specifically to disadvantaged groups. It works jointly with both private and public agencies, packing primary health care services at affordable rates.

"Operation Samahan is going through a lot of changes in this era of managed care and in the health care system," Joel H. San Juan, Samahan executive director stated. It is currently expanding its affiliations with other HMOs to meet the needs of its growing clientele.

"Our clinic has joined two HMOs, namely Community Health Group and Sharp Advantage. We are currently in negotiations to join Health Net and Universal Care. We are contracting with all these HMOs to see patients who are covered by different programs such as MediCal, Healthy Families and CHAMPUS. At a later date, our HMO patients will include those covered by AIM, Medicare and commercial insurance programs," San Juan continued.

More significantly, the clinic is at the threshold of blending Eastern and Western medicine. "We are now offering acupuncture treatments. We have acupuncturists every Monday from 1 to 5 p.m. and every Friday from 9 am to 12 noon. In the near future, we will offer other treatments and programs in complementary Medicine such as Herbs, Massage Therapy, Nutrition Healing, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi," San Juan said.

A big project slated to begin this year is its building expansion: A second floor addition to the clinic in National City. With an estimated cost of $500,000 the expansion project will house future activities and programs lined up for the community such a medical examination and treatment rooms, acupuncture, conference and library and many more.

Of this amount, Samahan received a $100,000 grant from the City of National City. The remaining $400,000 will be raised by Samahan.

A major funding activity is its Dinner-Dance celebration scheduled for November 13th, Friday, 6:00 pm at Shelter Pointe Hotel & Marina. Keynote speakers include Ms. Mona Pasquil from the White House Office of Political Affairs and Mr. Michael Johnson, a nationwide renowned Filipino educator.

Operation Samahan invites everyone to be a part of this joyful celebration. For more information, call Mrs. Aurora Cudal at (619) 477-4116, Ms. Golda Martinez at (619) 474-4514, or Ms. Amy Tenchavez at (619) 477-5527.

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