Local clinics treat tens of thousands
While local nonprofit clinics The Effort and the Health and Life Organization are not as well-known as major hospitals like Sutter Health or UC Davis Medical Center, they each serve tens of thousands of people in Sacramento County and play a major role in health care for the region’s low-income and homeless residents.
The Effort and the Health and Life Organization allow patients to pay for medical services on a sliding fee scale.
About six community health organizations run 29 clinics in Sacramento County, according to Chris Patterson, a media relations consultant for the Capitol Community Health Network.
About 14,000 patients made about 35,000 visits to The Effort’s medical sites last year, said Jonathan Porteus, the chief executive of the organization.
Porteus said he expects to see even more patients this year because of Sacramento County’s budget cuts to mental health services.
“What we’re finding is, as the county trimmed their mental health system, we inherited a lot of people with mental illness,” Porteus said. “They come more frequently.”
He said The Effort expects about 20,000 patients to make about 45,000 medical visits this year.
The organization consists of four general medical clinics, an addiction treatment center and three other clinics housed at specific sites, including St. John’s Shelter for Women and Children.
The Effort’s operating budget for the 2010/2011 fiscal year is $17.8 million, Porteus said. It receives federal, state and local funding, and monies from foundations, he said.
In addition, The Effort runs the second-largest suicide hotline in the country, Porteus said.
Jocelyn Nash, a patient who receives medical services at The Effort, spoke positively about the clinic.
“They take time with me,” she said.
The Effort’s J Street location looks like a typical medical office. The Sacramento Press toured the facility Friday morning. About 11 people sat on rows of chairs in a waiting room. Fliers about birth control and HIV were available for patients. Fluorescent lights shone down on a row of exam rooms. Several rooms were designated for counseling services.
Funding is a key challenge for the organization, Porteus said. The health care group has many patients who do not have government-funded health insurance like Medi-Cal.
During a couple months last year, 60 percent of the The Effort’s patients did not have insurance, he said.
With such a high percentage of clients seeking service who do not have insurance, The Effort must focus on how it can financially sustain its clinics, he said.
Meanwhile, the Health and Life Organization’s medical clinic on Del Paso Boulevard in North Sacramento was much smaller than The Effort’s. It also looked like a conventional medical center, with a TV showing CNN in the waiting room, and a white-coated medical professional walking the halls.
In addition to its clinic in North Sacramento, the Health and Life group has a clinic in South Sacramento. The group’s current operating budget is $4.3 million, and it receives state and federal funding. It plans to soon open a third clinic, which will also be located in South Sacramento.
About 60 percent of the health group’s patients are Southeast Asian, said Jerry Bliatout, the organization’s executive officer. His health group’s key challenge is to communicate to Southeast Asian patients how they can be helped by Western medicine, he said.
“We have to explain to them how important Western medicine is,” Bliatout said.
He said his clinics also communicate to these patients how they are expected to have longer lifespans in the United States than in Southeast Asia.
“These people that migrate from Southeast Asia, actually, they die a little bit earlier,” he said.
At the Health and Life Organization’s two medical centers, about 11,500 patients made about 40,000 visits last year, Bliatout said.
Porteus, chief executive of The Effort, says the public is unaware of his health center’s many services for low-income people.
“People don’t even know a lot of the stuff we do,” Porteus said.
For more information about local community health clinics, click on the following links.
Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.