Buchanan free health fair mailer draws ire



A Danville mental health clinic director is taking umbrage at Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan’s taxpayer-funded mailer that advertises Saturday’s free community health fair at the San Ramon Regional Medical Center in San Ramon.

“I run a small community for-profit behavioral health care business and I would love to have the California Assembly and tax dollars pay for some advertising for us as well,” said William Shryer, clinical director of the Diablo Behavioral Healthcare in an email.

The San Ramon Regional Medical Center is owned by Tenet Healthcare Corporation. While the screenings offered at the fair will be free, Shryer argues that Buchanan’s mailer amounts to taxpayer-funded advertising for a private company.

Buchanan is running for re-election and is expected to face a tough general opponent, San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson. I scanned the state campaign finance database, and she did not receive direct campaign contributions from Tenet in her first election in 2008 nor has she reported any dollars from the firm so far in her 2010 re-election campaign.¬† (That does not preclude the possibility that Tenet contributed to a PAC that gave her money.¬† I didn’t dig that deep.)

Yeah. Okay. But I’m not persuaded that the benefits to Tenet outweigh the benefits to folks who will have the a chance to obtain free screenings for heart disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure or diabetes. With all the people out of work these days, free health care is a pretty good deal.

Buchanan’s chief of staff Michelle Henry described the mailer as one of a series of brochures sent to residents of District 15 that advertise free community fairs such as a conference on how to recognize scammers that target senior citizens.

Her office is organizing several additional health fairs this spring and will host a job information fair in Livermore in mid-March.

All have or will involve mailing out fliers to district residents. They also send out emails but not everyone, especially the seniors and low income folks, have access to the Internet.

Access to publicly funded mail is all part of the power of incumbency and nearly every elected official in the nation takes advantage of it. I’ve seen legislator-sponsored¬† fairs on everything from preventing child abuse to averting mortgage foreclosure.

Unlike the San Ramon Regional Medical Center event, where the company is organizing the fair, Buchanan’s staff is bringing together he health care providers and other resources for the upcoming events.

“Since the San Ramon Regional Center was already putting on a fair, it meant we didn’t have to reinvent it,” Henry said. ”

Shryer says he called Buchanan’s office and asked about participating in Saturday’s event and was told that it was Tenet’s show.

It sounds as though he should call back and see about getting on the list for one of the other fairs.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen