The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium plans to close Front Street Clinic on October 1, according to SEARHC COO Dan Neumeister. The decision by the board of directors comes after two days of meetings last week.
Neumeister says deciding to close the clinic geared for homeless and low-income patients was difficult. He cites budgetary constraints, including sequestration.
Dan Austin with the Juneau Coalition on Housing and Homelessness says he’s not surprised with SEARHC’s decision.
“I think we have reached a point where we need to make that transition. I believe that for 10 years, SEARHC has done a wonderful service for the community, but we need to find an alternative.”
According to Neumeister, Front Street Clinic costs about $600,000 a year to operate. $160,000 of that comes from a U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration grant. The remaining more than $400,000, he says, comes from SEARHC. Neumeister says SEARHC makes that money through billings at its facilities.
The HRSA grant went into effect May 1 and is good for one year. Neumeister does not know how much, if any, of the $160,000 remains, but says he is working with the federal agency on how leftover funds can be re-designated.
Neumeister plans to hold a meeting in Juneau Tuesday to facilitate discussions on how the clinic can stay open. Neumeister did not identify who would be at the meeting but the city and borough of Juneau and the Juneau Coalition on Housing and Homelessness confirm they will have representatives present.
Dan Austin with the Coalition is optimistic that the community will find a solution.
“The big issue is going to be, in the event that the HRSA grant cannot keep the doors open at Front Street Clinic, where can we go to find some additional resources? That’s a big challenge in this time, but this is a community that can step up to the plate and do that.”
Neumeister says SEARHC remains committed to taking care of Alaska Native homeless. The responsibility of the general public, says Neumeister, needs to go back to the general public. He says Juneau has other organizations responsible for the homeless.
Neumeister also plans on meeting with Front Street Clinic staff today.