Saddleback College hosts annual student Health Fair on campus

Health Net’s Community Relations Specialist Elizabeth Creager positioned in front of where Mission Viejo Mayor Greg Raths spoke on behalf of the “Promise to Talk, California” mental health campaign. (Dylan Robinson/Lariat)

Saddleback College hosted their very own Health Fair this past Wednesday as part of an annual attempt to help out students who are without healthcare get covered. Multiple booths were available in addition to the Covered California and Medi-Cal offerings raising awareness for the various organizations who provide resources to prospective, applicable students.

Mission Viejo Mayor Greg Raths was in attendance to give a speech as part of the ‘Promise to Talk, California’ mental health awareness campaign. This program is in part a collaboration with Mission Hospital, St. Joseph Hospital and St. Jude Medical Center in Orange County. 

With 1 in 5 American adults facing mental illnesses any given year according to the National Institute of Mental Health’s information page, the Saddleback Health Fair is their means of providing students with resources to seek treatment or support not gained through day to day interaction.

Health Net’s Community Relations Specialist, as part of Covered California, Elizabeth Creager provided information on the organization’s goals to broaden healthcare coverage for California citizens through each stage of life.

“Most students who come to Saddleback are also eligible for Medi-Cal or Medicaid plan which is free insurance,” said Creager. “We are here today to do enrollments on-site, so if you are eligible for either of those programs you can actually enroll here instead of going to a county office.”

During the college’s Health Fair, Health Net helped to enroll 15 on-site enrollments for both Covered California and Medi-Cal with 10 more enrollment appointments scheduled to be completed after the Fair’s conclusion. 10 to 15 more organizations were there to represent health care resources students had access to, yet might not have known existed previously.

“The LGBT Center of Orange County, the Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights that’s actually based here in South County and also the Health Center of Saddleback,” said Creager.

This year there is a mandate for California citizens to have health insurance or face a tax penalty in 2021 when they file their 2020 tax return. Equipping students with free healthcare for 2020 will allow them to save every penny they need for focusing completely on school.

“The mayor’s goal is to just really get the word out and connect with other students just like he was before,” said Creager. “We are working with the Health Center possibly doing it both in the Spring and in the Fall session to remind people on the importance of accessing healthcare.”

If students missed the Health Fair they can still go on either Health Net’s or Covered California’s websites in addition to calling a local Mission Viejo entity supplying them with further information.

Karen Hernandez is the Community Outreach and Educational Advisor for Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights and attended the Saddleback Health Fair to spread awareness of the services CHIRLA provides for unrepresented communities in Orange County. A San Juan Capistrano office for CHIRLA opened up right near the post office in town allowing for more local access to the institution’s amenities. 

“We are here to help the community, mostly marginalized communities that often don’t get the resources or needs to help for their immigration case or education especially right now under these difficult times,” said Hernandez. “What we do is offer free legal services such as general consultations, citizenship, DACA renewals, and family petitions.”

Community education and civic engagement are other features of CHIRLA meant to go over topics during workshops diffusing information to the public. With 2020 being an election year CHIRLA wants to inform as much of the public as possible in an effort to educate on immigrant affairs in the US.

“CHIRLA will be providing legal services for Saddleback college students, it’s going to be happening in the next couple months,” said Hernandez. “We’re going to have either a law clerk or an attorney come to campus once a week to provide free legal services for students and their families.”

Many other community colleges are participating in this effort, yet CHIRLA as an organization is new to Saddleback giving students resources the organization believes they need. Both documented and undocumented students will be accomodated for under CHIRLA’s services on campus once a designated office for it opens up.

The Saddleback Health Fair remains an annual occurrence for now with plans to potentially expand the event to be featured twice a year. Students can find additional information by visiting the health office on campus and going online to search for further healthcare resources that are available to them and their families.