Local Receives National Award for Making a Difference in Care of Most Vulnerable

By CenCal Health

Solvang resident and CenCal Health employee Ana Stenersen will receive the 14th Annual Making a Difference award from the Washington, D.C.-based Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP). Throughout her 25-year career in nursing and healthcare administration, Stenersen has been committed to addressing the needs of vulnerable individuals – 21 of those years have been devoted to serving children and youth with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, cerebral palsy and hemophilia.

ACAP is the national trade organization that represents not-for-profit Safety Net Health Plans; CenCal Health is a member. “Ms. Stenersen’s passion exemplifies what the Making a Difference Award is all about,” said Enrique Martinez-Vidal, ACAP Vice President for Quality and Operations. “Addressing the social determinants of health is a key priority of ACAP’s and has been at the forefront of Ms. Stenersen’s work at CenCal Health. Her dedication to helping patients and improving the quality of care of thousands is why we honor her today.” This summer, ACAP will present Stenersen with a commemorative plaque and $1,000 to be distributed to the charities of her choice. Stenersen has selected St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Shriners Hospital for Children to each receive $500. 

As the Medi-Cal health plan that works with local providers to deliver health care services, CenCal Health serves one in four residents of Santa Barbara County and one in five residents of San Luis Obispo County. Almost half of the Medi-Cal members in the two-county service area are children.

“Promoting access to pediatric care for young, disenfranchised community members is a calling that has defined the course of Ana’s career,” said CenCal Health CEO Marina Owen. “Her specialty in this discipline began over two decades ago, and has fueled the successful implementation of programs for other county health agencies, including Santa Barbara, and, since 2017, for CenCal Health.”

Ana Stenersen’s career began in 1998 as a Registered Nurse at the Intensive Care Unit of Redlands Community Hospital, where she worked with critically ill patients, their families, and caregivers to determine the best options for treatment, diagnosis, and prevention. As Charge Nurse, she achieved successful unit leadership and led by example, training other nurses to provide quality, compassionate nursing for patients admitted into one of the most critically functioning environments of the hospital. 

In 2002, eager to more fully support vulnerable children and their families, Stenersen began a position at San Bernardino County Public Health Department as a Public Health Nurse Care Manager for the California Children’s Services Program (CCS).  CCS is a State program that provides access to healthcare services for children up to 21 years old who have certain physical and chronic health conditions or diseases. Stenersen managed a caseload of approximately 500 pediatric clients who required seamless and comprehensive care management. There, she performed intricate care coordination between doctors, specialists, case managers, and social service providers. She often served as the voice for CCS families who did not have the tools to advocate for themselves. Stenersen also regularly supported families in addressing the social determinants of health affecting a child’s well-being, including providing housing resources and access to other support services.

Stenersen relocated to Santa Barbara County in 2008 to oversee CCS services, followed by a move to CenCal Health in 2017 to establish the Whole Child Model Program, a pilot project created to increase care coordination by moving responsibilities from CCS to health plans. With Stenersen’s guidance, CenCal Health became one of five health plans in California to assume CCS responsibilities, simplifying healthcare navigation for members eligible for CCS services. The program offered a single point-of-contact for health services and case management, including primary care, preventive care, transportation, and more.

In January 2023, Stenersen was promoted to Associate Director in the Utilization Management Division of CenCal Health, where service and support is provided to the health plan’s most vulnerable members — children and adults living with complex, often incapacitating medical conditions. Understanding that behind each case is an individual whose well-being depends on access to timely medical care, Stenersen ensures that her 45-person team provides proper and prompt reviews of proposed medical procedures. Her responsibilities include delivering guidance to medical providers and members related to treatment requests and authorizations; serving as liaison to providers and other agencies to ensure exemplary care coordination; and offering swift resolution of issues affecting vulnerable beneficiaries and their families.

“For the thousands of patients, members, and families Ana has served over time, her support has extended beyond the traditional walls of healthcare to address the complex social factors and life circumstances that affect wellness,” said Owen. “For CenCal Health, Ana embodies the health plan’s mission by improving the health of its diverse membership and advancing health equity both inside and outside the clinical setting.”

About ACAP 
ACAP represents 80 health plans which collectively provide health coverage to more than 25 million people. Safety Net Health Plans serve their members through Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Marketplace and other publicly-sponsored health programs. For more information, visit www.communityplans.net. 

About CenCal Health 
CenCal Health is the local Medi-Cal health plan that partners with over 1,500 local physicians, hospitals, and other providers in delivering health care services to over 235,000 members in its two-county service area. Marking 40 years of serving the most vulnerable, CenCal Health prioritizes cultivating community partnerships; advancing quality and health equity; expanding its service role and reach in the community; and organizing for impact and effectiveness. With a vision to be a trusted leader in advancing health equity so that the communities we serve thrive and achieve optimal health, CenCal Health invites the public to review its 2023-2025 Strategic Plan at cencalhealth.org/strategicplan.


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