Community clinics, bringing good healthcare to the hood, deserve full funding

by Deena Lahn

San Francisco – San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium (SFCCC) partnered with the St. Anthony Foundation in hosting a press event highlighting the challenges medically underserved communities face, now more than ever. Though a significant portion of federal funding for community health centers expired on Sept. 30, 2017, Congress has yet to renew funding for the Community Health Center Program.

Community clinics care.

If Congress fails to act by Jan. 1, 2018, 9 million people throughout the United States who depend on the high quality, low cost services of community health centers may lose some of their access to health care.

“Community Health Centers (CHCs) play a critical role in providing community-based care to Californians regardless of their ability to pay,” said Assemblymember David Chiu, who represents Assembly District 17. “This is especially true in cities where our most vulnerable communities rely on services like the ‘Healthcare for the Homeless’ program. Congress must approve the necessary funds as soon as possible.”

Without federal funding support, SFCCC and its member clinics could lose up to $5 million in federal investment. This could trigger laying off clinician personnel, closing the doors or limiting the hours of health centers, and scaling back essential health programs, including SFCCC’s successful Health Care for the Homeless Program.

When one in 10 residents in the City rely on community clinic services, most of whom are under 200 percent of the federal poverty level, San Francisco will feel the devastation of congressional inaction if nothing is done immediately.

“Our only objective is to provide low income patients with high quality primary care,” said St. Anthony Medical Clinic Director Zeke Montejano. “Community health centers save lives and dollars for millions of people throughout San Francisco, California and the United States. We help them stay out of emergency rooms and get the care they need to lead healthier lives.”

If Congress chooses to put a halt on subsidizing community health centers, the City’s homeless population will disproportionately feel the effects. Homelessness remains one of the most perplexing problems in San Francisco, and high quality primary care is an important part of the solution.

Southeast Health Center in Bayview Hunters Point, though chronically underfunded, is a revered community institution.

Over the years, SFCCC’s mobile outreach van and our community clinics and the Department of Public Health have assisted with providing medical, nursing, dental, substance abuse, mental health, case management and outreach services for the homeless. Cuts in funding jeopardize this critical program and many others who serve underinsured and uninsured patients in the City.

“The only way for us to ensure access to quality, affordable care is to stay vigilant. Programs provided by community clinics here in San Francisco have been instrumental in providing care for over 100,000 individuals annually,” said Sabra Matovsky, CEO of the San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium.

The Health Care for the Homeless Program, community clinics like the St. Anthony Medical Clinic and the San Francisco Department of Public Health have tirelessly worked for decades to provide vital medical assistance to San Francisco’s most vulnerable communities. We will continue to work providing care for our patients and hope that Congress does their part by acting swiftly to renew this critical funding.

About the Federal Health Center Program

The federal government provided funding to Federally Qualified Health Centers as part of health care reform, so that health centers could increase access by providing primary care to all, regardless of ability to pay. Health centers rose to the challenge and continue to see a growing number of patients, mostly under 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

However, this increased funding expired Sept. 30, 2017. Existing funds remain until the end of the calendar year. Locally, our Federally Qualified Health Centers could lose up to $5 million in federal investment in San Francisco, in addition to the Health Care for the Homeless Program described below.

About Health Care for the Homeless (HCH)

The San Francisco Health Care for the Homeless program has operated since 1988 as a partnership between SFCCC, five of our partner clinics and the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH). SFCCC administers a federal HCH grant and contracts with these partners for the provision of HCH services, including medical, nursing, dental, substance abuse, mental health, case management and outreach services. The program serves more than 19,000 homeless San Franciscans annually. Our federal HCH grant is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Deena Lahn can be reached at