No Access, No Choice

A women's community clinic has been rescued after it lost federal funding earlier this year.

Employees and volunteers hold signs during the Women’s March (Photo courtesy Women’s Community Clinic)

Since 1999, San Francisco’s Women’s Community Clinic has offered more than 4,000 low-income women and girls access to health care services. From emotional support to reproductive health, WCC treats a wide range of local women — 90 percent of whom earn less than $25,000 per year.

Though its headquarters are in Western Addition, the clinic has an outreach program that engages with women experiencing homelessness in the city’s Mission District — an extremely underserved population that often falls through the cracks during discussions about our nation’s access to health care.

But earlier this year, the clinic learned it had lost a $250,000 federal grant that was key to its operation. A mad scramble and an ambitious fundraising campaign ensued to try to find alternative financial sources to fill the gap. Additional worries loomed: President Donald Trump has proposed cutting funding to Title X, a federal grant program dedicated to providing individuals with family-planning and related health services, which could slash an additional $150,000 out of WCC’s $3.4 million operating budget.

The brief panic staffers and clients faced has now been allayed, as a larger organization learned of the crisis and stepped in. This week, health umbrella group HealthRIGHT 360 announced it would merge with WCC, providing a strategic financial safety net for the clinic, and saving it from the on-again, off-again stresses that come with a reliance on federal funding.

The WCC joins a diverse set of services supported by the medical organization — for example, Lyon-Martin Health Services is a haven for LGBTQ individuals who need trained safe spaces for their health needs, and Asian American Recovery Services provides culturally aware substance-abuse care to the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

Overall, HealthRIGHT 360 manages a $115 million annual budget for its 10 organizations, which provide jobs for more than 1,000 employees, and serve more than 10,000 low-income and homeless individuals in San Francisco each year.

“We are pleased to have found a partnership that will preserve the services for women and girls that the Women’s Community Clinic has provided for nearly 20 years,” says Carlina Hansen, WCC’s executive director.

Although the impact the clinic has is substantial its rescue is just a small step towards women’s rights in the face of an administration that views pregnancy as a pre-existing condition. There is still work to be done — and more women’s clinics to rescue, before their funding and services disappear for good.

The Women’s Community Clinic is open six days a week, at 1833 Fillmore St. Information on hours and services provided can be found at womenscommunityclinic.org.

 

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