Portland homeless clinic seeks federal help to delay closure, layoffs

The Portland Community Health Clinic on Park Avenue.
Seth Koenig | BDN
The Portland Community Health Clinic on Park Avenue. Buy Photo
Posted Feb. 13, 2014, at 5:25 p.m.
Mark McForbes gets his blood pressure and blood sugars checked Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Health Care for the Homeless Clinic on Portland Street in Portland.
Mark McForbes gets his blood pressure and blood sugars checked Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Health Care for the Homeless Clinic on Portland Street in Portland. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — Operators of a city health clinic for homeless people say they’re hopeful they can keep the facility open until the end of the calendar year, despite the crippling loss of a federal grant.

But the Health Care for the Homeless Clinic will indeed close in 2014, on either April 30 or Dec. 31, Douglas Gardner, director of Portland’s Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday.

As a result, the city will be forced to eliminate the 19 full-time and four part-time staff positions at the clinic, he said.

The U.S. Health Resource and Services Administration awarded a competitive $680,000 grant to the nonprofit Portland Community Health Center after more than two decades of supplying that money to the city’s clinic.

With the loss of the grant, the Health Care for the Homeless Clinic must turn over to the center its responsibility for providing medical services to the city’s homeless population. The clinic currently has until April 30 to finish the transition work and close its doors.

But Gardner said the city has asked HRSA for an additional $490,000 in funding to keep the clinic open until Dec. 31.

As previously reported, the center’s HRSA application stated it will grow its capacity to serve 1,000 new homeless patients by the end of the year, but potentially still not be able to absorb the city clinic’s entire roster of nearly 2,300 homeless patients.

Gardner said he hopes the federal agency will give his clinic the extra time necessary to formulate plans for the 1,300 extra patients.

“As hard as our staff tries and as hard as PCHC tries, there are going to be patients who don’t have a medical home,” he said.

Gardner said the Health Care for the Homeless Clinic has an annual budget of about $1.8 million. The $1 million to $1.2 million remaining after the loss of the federal grant money was almost entirely offset by state reimbursements and other grants, he said, so closing the facility will not represent a significant savings to the city.

In its announcement of the grant award last month, the Portland Community Health Center stated that it had seen an 800 percent increase in homeless patients in 18 months, going from 71 in March 2012 to 626 in September of last year.

 

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