December 13, 2012

Foundation's gift extends life of free Portland health clinic

Portland's mayor hopes other foundations will help keep the facility open to serve those who can't afford health insurance.

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — A Maine foundation has agreed to make a significant monetary contribution that will help keep the Portland Community Free Clinic open through next year, Mayor Michael Brennan said Thursday.

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Portland Mayor Michael Brennan

AP

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Brennan declined to name the foundation or say how much it will donate until details can be worked out. However, he said it's one of several Maine organizations he's tapped in the hope of saving a critical community resource that's in dire financial straits.

"I'm in discussions with a few foundations," Brennan said. "One foundation has stepped forward and made a sizable commitment. They'd like to see other foundations get involved and make matching gifts."

Brennan said he may share more details about the foundations on Friday.

The clinic at 103 India St. has enough cash to stay open until March, Brennan said. After that, it will need about $10,000 a month just to stay open through 2013, he said.

The city has long provided space for the clinic and administrative oversight, Brennan said, but it needs a long-term financial solution to weather economic turbulence caused, in part, by federal health care reform.

For two decades, the free clinic was supported by the city and Mercy Hospital. In 2011, the hospital pulled its annual contribution of $210,000, citing shifting priorities and its belief that the city had other resources to serve similar patients.

The free clinic serves 500 to 600 patients annually from across Cumberland County, according to city officials. It targets people who earn too much to qualify for MaineCare, the state's form of Medicaid, but who can't afford health insurance or doctor visits.

The clinic is open from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, to accommodate people's work schedules. Care is provided by doctors and nurses who volunteer their time. Patients can see both primary care doctors and specialists.

The clinic now has a yearly budget just over $100,000, which primarily covers wages of three part-time employees. The city kicked in $9,000 a month for July, August and September. The clinic is relying on reserve funds to carry it through February.

Another health care resource for low-income people is the Portland Community Health Center at 180 Park St. Started by the city, it will become a free-standing operation on Jan. 1, operating as a federally qualified, nonprofit health center, Brennan said.

Unlike the free clinic, the health center has a paid staff and serves people of all incomes, including those enrolled in MaineCare. Patients are billed based on their ability to pay, and the federal government provides grant support.

The city also operates the Health Care for the Homeless clinic at 20 Portland St., which provides medical, dental and mental health care for people who are living in shelters, cars or other unstable situations.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

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