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February 8, 2023

Supporting those who put themselves out front

In March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic set in, a large collective of nonprofits, public institutions and individuals serving the Pajaro Valley mobilized weekly meetings. The intent was to become informed and advocate for equitable public health resources and transparency in the County’s Covid-19 response to ensure our community’s well-being. Early outreach by this South County Support and Triage Group (So. Co. Triage Group) to the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (HSA) expanded upon a long-time partnership with Director Mimi Hall. 

Prior to the pandemic Mimi consistently advocated for public health investments to address health disparities disproportionately impacting the population in South County. Understanding how Covid-19 would also disproportionately affect our South County community, members of the So. Co. Triage Group supported Mimi’s courageous voice for health equity as it would be critical in protecting and serving  Pajaro Valley residents. 

As the pandemic then took deeper hold, Mimi’s partnership during weekly virtual meetings to share Covid-19 updates, became a source of strength and truth for members of the So. Co. Triage group in our ability to best serve the community. Mimi and the healthcare leadership across Santa Cruz County engaged with this So. Co. Triage Group to center equity in our County’s response. This directly translated into positive impacts for Pajaro Valley residents from the vaccine roll out to financial resource allocation to Watsonville for critical Covid-19 testing, vaccine messaging, and ultimately in saving lives. Residents across the Pajaro Valley benefited from the swift and coordinated HSA pandemic response that was leveraged by the So. Co. Triage Group and so effectively led by Mimi and her team.

By the time you read this, Mimi will have completed her final days of service to our collective public health in Santa Cruz County. As Monica Martinez, CEO of Encompass Community Services wrote on Sept. 24, Mimi’s resignation is “a devastating blow to the current and future health of our community.” Mimi and her brave colleagues at HSA, Dr. Gail Newel, Corinne Hyland, and Jen Herrera, led us during the pandemic without hesitation and by example through consistent communication, partnership and trust, transparency in the face of fear, and with a  laser focus on equity.

Mimi endured threats to her safety and that of her family, an atrocity no public servant should be subjected to. She exhibited profound courage and unequivocal commitment to health equity despite being targeted. As we lose this guardian and advocate of our collective community health, let’s bring back into view the importance of supporting those who put themselves out front in the name of health equity and science, including all our county healthcare workers at every level. They are picking up the torch being passed by Mimi in her transition, and this is our time as a county community to stand behind each and every one of them moving forward.  

We wish Mimi well and we will long consider her familia. 

The South County Covid Support and Triage Group is comprised of:  

  • Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance – Erica Padilla-Chavez, CEO 
  • Cabrillo College Watsonville Center – Olga Diaz 
  • Children’s Behavioral Health – Meg Yarnell, Behavioral Health Program Manager 
  • Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County, Inc. – MariaElena De La Garza, CEO  
  • Encompass Community Services – Monica Martinez, CEO 
  • FoodWhat!? – Doron Comerchero, Executive Director 
  • Jacob’s Heart – Heidi Boynton, Executive Director  
  • Migrant Head Start/Santa Cruz COE – Maria F. Castro  
  • Monarch Services – Laura Segura, Co-CEO 
  • Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust – DeAndre James, CEO 
  • Pajaro Valley Unified School District – Alicia Jimenez, Public Information Officer, &  Andrea Carlos Willy, District Grant Writer 
  • Santa Cruz Community Ventures – Maria Cadenas, CEO  
  • Second Harvest Food Bank – Willy Elliott-McCrea and Richelle Noroyan
  • Santa Cruz County Childhood Advisory Council – Diane Munoz 
  • Senior Citizens Legal Services – Tanya Ridino, Executive Director United Way of Santa Cruz County – Keisha Browder, CEO 

This entry represents the views of the South County Covid Support and Triage Group. Their views are their own, and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.


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