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The California Wellness Foundation Names Joseph Villela As Director of Government Relations

October 4, 2022—The California Wellness Foundation has hired Joseph Villela as director of government relations. In this new role, Villela will lead Cal Wellness’ engagement on public policy issues and build a government relations program to advance local, regional, state, and federal efforts that align with the foundation’s mission and strategies.

Villela brings 17 years of experience establishing policy and advocacy programs and cultivating relationships with government officials to address the needs of California communities. Most recently, he served as policy director at the Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Policy Initiative, an initiative at Loyola Law School. Prior to that he worked at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) for 15 years. At CHIRLA he developed programmatic strategies and priorities for policy advocacy and mentored and supervised a diverse and talented team of staff and consultants to support CHIRLA’s advocacy efforts.

Villela is Cal Wellness’ first director of government relations, a new position created within the Public Affairs Department. The role reflects Cal Wellness’ commitment to using its voice and influence alongside its philanthropic investments to support the work of its grantee partners. To fulfill its mission, the foundation aims to work more closely with government partners as a key strategy for moving dollars to under-resourced communities and ensuring that those communities have voice in policy decisions that impact their lives.

“Joseph is a highly skilled advocate, a smart policy strategist and a compassionate leader who understands how public-private partnerships can advance health and wellness for communities,” said Richard Tate, executive vice president of Cal Wellness. “His work has led to reforms in California’s criminal justice system, the strengthening of immigrants’ rights and increased investments toward underserved communities. We’re thrilled that Joseph is bringing his considerable talents to Cal Wellness.”

“Public policy may seem abstract, but as someone who came to California as a child, who put down roots here with my family, I have personally felt the impact of policies that criminalize and dehumanize immigrants,” said Villela. “I consider myself a strategic disruptor, which is why I’m excited to join Cal Wellness. I know that here, I will be able to use my experience and knowledge to address the entrenched causes of health disparities.”

About The California Wellness Foundation

The California Wellness Foundation’s mission is to protect and improve the health and wellness of the people of California by increasing access to health care, quality education, good jobs, healthy environments and safe neighborhoods. Since its founding in 1992, Cal Wellness has awarded more than $1.1 billion in charitable contributions and 10,600 grants.


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