We are just days away from the Affordable Care Act taking a major step forward as individuals and families begin to seize newly available opportunities to enroll in health care coverage.

All the pieces of the puzzle have to fit together. We won't know how well all the technology and procedures will work together until after Tuesday, when enrollment commences.

Undoubtedly, there will be problems - some with easy fixes and some that are more difficult to overcome - to address. Please know that our county agency and staff are doing everything in our control to bring health care coverage and the expansion to our residents.

For many in our community, it is the county where the rubber meets the road in health care reform. Del Norte County Department of Health and Human Services is where many people will turn to understand the available health care coverage options either through the expansion of MediCal, or through the state insurance exchange, known as Covered California, which will offer income-based federal subsidies.

For Del Norte County, state projections indicate an additional 2,000 individuals will be eligible for MediCal and another 3,000 for the state insurance exchange.

Having worked to serve the needs of our county's most vulnerable residents for 32 years, I know the Affordable Care Act represents an opportunity to improve the well-being of individuals and families across Del Norte County.At the same time, this unprecedented expansion - on tight timelines and with other entities involved in the governance of the Act - represents an enormous challenge.

Fortunately, our county has existing resources that give us a head start in this effort.For example, our county - like all 58 counties in the state - has an integrated eligibility system for enrolling people into MediCal, CalWORKs, CalFresh and other programs.

We offer an array of options for people to access our programs - in person, online, by phone, and by mail.We have a knowledgeable, trained workforce who knows their community well and understands the changing circumstances of clients' lives.

With the support of our Board of Supervisors, our department has been working tirelessly on preparing for this health coverage expansion. We understand we will be the place many residents turn to for help to enroll starting Tuesday for coverage that begins Jan. 1, 2014.

Del Norte County Department of Health and Human Services will play a critical role in determining eligibility and enrollment for health care and other assistance programs. We're just one piece of the puzzle. Other entities at the state and federal levels are key pieces of the puzzle.

What we're setting out to do with health care reform is a part of our core mission to promote the health and wellbeing of families and individuals. The Affordable Care Act provides an opportunity to forward that mission.

We are located at 880 Northcrest Drive in Crescent City and our telephone number is 707-464-3191. Also, you may go to for MediCal and other program applications and for the state insurance exchange.

Gary Blatnick is director of the county's Department of Health and Human Resources.