37 Years Of Service And Advocacy For Rural Health

Judith Shaplin is a lifelong resident of rural East San Diego County and has worked at Mountain Health since 1985 serving as its CEO until April 2020 when Mountain Health merged with San Ysidro Health (SYHealth). Today, she is the Vice President of Social Resources and Rural Services working with SYHealth Leadership to expand services to the under-resourced populations in both rural and urban communities of San Diego County. During Judi’s tenure at Mountain Health, she dramatically expanded healthcare, behavioral health services and dental healthcare, as well as access to these resources in both rural and urban communities, with an emphasis on providing services to culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Judi announced her decision to retire after 37 years of care and service earlier this year and SYHealth is hosting a Celebration of Rural Health Luncheon & Benefit on July 7th at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront in her honor to celebrate her career and raise critical funds for nutrition services for seniors and their families.

The obstacles faced by patients and providers in rural communities are vastly different than those in urban San Diego County. Economic factors, cultural and social differences, limited education opportunities and the sheer isolation of living in remote areas all conspire to create health care disparities and impede rural neighbors in their struggle to lead healthy lives.
To this point, SYHealth Mountain Health Community Center Senior Nutrition Program headquartered at the Mountain Health Community Center (MHCC) in Campo serves seniors who reside in the Mountain Empire sub-region of East San Diego County. This sub-region covers 950 square miles with 7,500 residents in the southeastern portion of the County and is comprised of several rural backcountry communities.

The MHCC Senior Nutrition Program provides congregate and home-delivered meals. Anyone age 60+ is eligible to participate in the congregate meals, which are served at MHCC and at various libraries and community centers throughout the Mountain Empire sub-region. Over the last two years, eligibility for home-delivered meals has been expanded to include any senior age 60+, in order to accommodate those who wish to avoid public settings to reduce COVID-19 exposure. Ultimately, the need and demand for home delivered meals has increased and the program is in dire need of sturdy 4×4 vehicles that can handle the rough terrain to deliver these meals.

Unfortunately access to affordable food/fresh produce is a significant barrier for seniors in this region. There is no large grocery store in the mountains, and it is a 40 to 65 mile drive one way to access food. For many local seniors, with incomes below $600/month, the MHCC meals are their primary food source.

The Celebration of Rural Health Luncheon & Benefit not only honors the efforts of a dedicated advocate and supporter, it also benefits the senior nutrition program by funding hybrid 4×4 vehicles desperately needed to deliver meals throughout the region. SYHealth invites you to join us and give in any capacity: as an advocate, volunteer by donating your time and skills, or by giving to help meet the needs of vulnerable seniors and families in rural communities. For more information about San Ysidro Health or to donate, please visit www.syhealth.org.