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Community doctors, organizations donate to keep Front Street Clinic open

The clinic received more than $100,000 in donations in less than a week

Posted: September 9, 2013 - 8:30pm  |  Updated: September 10, 2013 - 12:02am
Guy Sanders, left, is seen by Dr. Dave McCandless at the Front Street Clinic on Monday. Enough money has been raised to keep the clinic, which cares for many in Juneau's homeless population, open until next spring. Sanders said he has been using the clinic for the last year and a half.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Guy Sanders, left, is seen by Dr. Dave McCandless at the Front Street Clinic on Monday. Enough money has been raised to keep the clinic, which cares for many in Juneau's homeless population, open until next spring. Sanders said he has been using the clinic for the last year and a half.

When Glory Hole volunteer Roger Kley picked up his blood pressure medication from the Front Street Clinic Monday morning, he was grateful his sole health care provider will live to see at least another six months.

The clinic, which provides cost-free health services to Juneau’s homeless and low-income populations, announced it would be closing Oct. 1 due to budget cuts. But, last week, it received an outpouring of donations — more than $100,000 worth — that will allow it to operate for six more months.

This lifts a huge weight from the shoulders of Front Street’s 300 clients and the people who care for them. For many people, like Kley, the clinic is the only place to go for affordable care.

“To know that the Front Street Clinic is still there is a relief,” Kley said. “I have no insurance, and if I went to the emergency room I’d have a big bill I couldn’t afford.”

Mariya Lovishchuk, director of the Glory Hole homeless shelter and soup kitchen, spearheaded efforts to bring in financial support to the clinic. The two organizations work together often, and serve much of the same clientele.

Lovishchuk said she approached an unlikely group of stakeholders for donations — emergency room doctors at Bartlett Regional Hospital. The doctors were concerned about quality of care if too much stress was put on emergency room services after Front Street’s closure, Lovishchuk said.

“I just thought it makes so much sense because the emergency room would receive a much higher volume,” she said.

And the doctors have gone above and beyond, she said. Along with donations from anonymous community and religious organizations, Front Street raised $110,000 in less than a week, Lovishchuk said

“They responded very quickly and graciously,” she said. “Not because of recognition but because they believe something is important.”

She said the donor doctors have been reaching out to other Juneau doctors to help make the push for the last $46,000. The clinic technically needs that last chunk of cash to stay open for six more months, but Lovishchuk is confident in the community’s generosity. The Juneau Community Foundation is heading the push for the final donations, she said. Anyone who would like to donate can do so by contacting the foundation at 523-5450.

Front Street’s parent organization, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, pulled funding from the clinic but is devoting $90,000 in federal grant money to help keep it open for the next six months.

However, a long-term solution must be reached, Front Street Clinic manager and nurse practitioner Janna Brewster said. At the end of April, SEARHC will no longer run the clinic, she said. Stakeholders are discussing replacing Front Street with a new community health center, which would offer services on a sliding scale — from free to a modest rate, depending on what the client can pay. The center would take insured and uninsured clients.

“The future’s looking exciting,” Brewster said. “We had kind of cut back services and people were outwardly tense and upset and we were ecstatic to tell them the clinic’s not closing.”

Brewster said she and the entire Front Street staff are endlessly grateful for the support the clinic has received.

Lovishchuk said that what seemed like the end is now “really the very beginning.” Now that the clinic has the means to continue at least for a while, stakeholders need to decide on a solution and work to make it a reality, all in six months, she said. A public meeting to discuss options for a new community health center will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the CBJ Assembly Chambers.

“We’re out of the emergency phase, but the work begins now,” Lovishchuk said.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com.

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