In the raging sea of rising healthcare costs where a serious illness can capsize even an affluent family into bankruptcy, places like Minneapolis’ La Clinica on Lake Street are vital to community health. Because it refuses to turn away for financial reasons any patient in need of medical services, however, La Clinica on Lake will cease to exist at the end of this summer.
Mavis Brehm, executive director of West Side Community Health Services, parent organization of La Clinica, said La Clinica’s Board of Directors decided last week to euthanasize the popular and respected South Minneapolis provider “because of mounting financial pressure.”
In 2005, La Clinica saw over five thousand patients (which is a significant figure for a facility that is only open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays) and approximately 80 percent of those patients had absolutely no form of insurance.
While not an emergency or urgent care clinic, La Clinica does a great deal more than putting a band-aid on a scraped knee or wrapping a twisted ankle. Among the services offered to its patients, La Clinica offers primary care and preventative services, women’s healthcare including breast and cervical cancer screenings, teen pregnancy prevention, diabetes prevention and treatment, mental health services, lab services, and more. La Clinica, along with its partners at community organizations like C.L.U.E.S (Chicanos Latinos Unidos En Servicio, an adult outpatient program which also works with victims of sexual abuse), offers programs such as the Aquí Para Ti (Here for You) Youth Development Program which offers preventive services targeting various healthcare issues including but not limited to tobacco, alcohol, and drug use, immunizations, exercise and nutrition as well as free health fairs.
The total amount budgetary shortfall for last fiscal year totaled $900,000.
According to Brehm, the transition period of the next few months for La Clinica will focus on trying to get as many of the existing staff and services from Lake Street absorbed into WSCHS’ flagship clinic in West Saint Paul. While acknowledging that there are still some important funding possibilities that could have kept La Clinica open beyond August 2006 (when its current lease expires), Brehm stated that “the long term solution” compelled the Board to consolidate WSCHS’ services which were utilized by more than 36,000 Minnesotans last year alone.
This latest unfortunate development is not the end of the story. It actually marks the continuation of an ongoing struggle. Closing La Clinica on Lake Street “doesn’t take away the pressure in the future … the needs aren’t going away,” said Brehm of the reality of limited reimbursements and increasing demands on an already overwhelmed “safety net.” Brehm said she hoped that the closing of La Clinica on Lake will raise “awareness of how vulnerable providers are.”