Back-to-the-land Healthcare
and Childbirth

Origins of the Redwoods Rural Health Center (RRHC)

Star Root, 1977 RRHC
1979 RRHC boogie fundraiser, From left to right: David Penalosa, Randy Clark, Lieb Ostrow, Lane (?), Joani Rose, Larry Wilson, Jimmy Durchslag
Star Root Ad 1977

In 1974 a group of poor hippie women organized to establish a clinic that would serve their health needs after several episodes of poor treatment at the Garberville hospital. Soon they rented the back room of the Redway laundromat and by the mid 1980s they built the modern clinic residents of the region know well. To spread word of their clinic, Star Root gave the clinic space for the following article in April 1977. 

“By now, you probably know that the Redwoods Rural Health Center sits across from the Redway Elementary School on Empire Drive and that it has clinics on Wednesday and Thursday. But you may not know much more about who we are. This will tell you some of it, and if you want to know more, come by and look us over from any Monday to any Friday.

“As a health center, we hope to do more than just “repair work.” We want to look at the life habits that may be affecting people’s overall health and deal with those, as well as with the immediate problem. On the initial clinic appointment, people fill out comprehensive (yes, comprehensive!) forms telling us if they smoke, drink, relax, meditate, get exercise, have headaches, feel tired, etc. They meet with one of our health workers to have a blood pressure reading, to check pulse and temperature and to talk a t length about the reasons for coming in. Perhaps, they will be directed to the lab for some simple health checks, and most likely they will talk to the nutrition technician. Through all these extras, we get a fuller picture of how you live, and can give you a fuller picture of why you’re sick.

“We want patients to participate in their own healing and to learn whatever they can when they come to us. People should feel free to have at their charts, to ask questions, to help make decisions about cures or suggest healing procedures. A woman having an annual exam is given fifteen minutes of training in how to examine her breasts and uses a mirror to ‘view her own cervix; the women in our pregnancy workshop learn yoga exercises, breathing techniques and nutrition. We want people to participate, too, in figuring out how we run by feeding the suggestion box, coming to the annual community meetings or a board meeting, or just expressing on the spot feelings to whoever is handy.

“By trying to look at the whole person, not just the wart on the nose, we may take off from “standard” medicine, but in other ways our practices are traditional ones. Partly this is because we do have reasonable faith in lab tests, antibiotics and some of the equipment and pills that are around. In part, this is because our own knowledge is limited in, say, herbal cures, and we don’t want to experiment on our patients. In part, this is because we are wary of legalities, particularly when established folks – Garberville Medical Center being first on the list – are working hard to obstruct our funding and bring us down. Given the limits, though, we want to give people the space to explore some of the alternatives. We’ve talked of hiring a masseuse and an acupuncturist when we find certified people and the money. We do want to know about qualified people i n the community with medical skills. And we have been offering, and will offer, workshops. such as the one on massage and touch that is happening on an upcoming weekend.”

Jimmy Durchslag was the RRHC Manager from 1974 to 1981 after which he served as the Building Project Manager until 1986. The original office was in the complex on Redway Drive where Home Cooking is now based (2023).  RRHC used the Open Door Mobile Clinic to provide their first medical services. RRHC moved to the old laundromat spot after that to open the onsite clinic. Irv Tessler was the first Physician, joined soon after by Bill Hunter.