Public health center in Juneau slated to close

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A public health center in Juneau that treats the homeless and low-income residents plans to close, barring another alternative being found.

The Front Street Clinic, run by the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, is set to close Oct. 1, amid budget concerns, the consortium’s chief operating officer, Dan Neumeister told KTOO (http://bit.ly/16LxWQr ).

Neumeister said the clinic costs about $600,000 a year to operate. More than $400,000 of that comes from the consortium while $160,000 is from a federal grant that went into effect May 1 and is good for a year. He said the consortium makes the money it provides through billings at its facilities. He was not sure how much, if any, of the grant money was still left.

Neumeister plans to meet with officials in Juneau next week to discuss ways in which the clinic might be able to stay open. He declined to say who would attend, though the city and borough of Juneau and Juneau Coalition on Housing and Homelessness said they plan to have representatives present.

Dan Austin, with the coalition on housing and homelessness, said he wasn’t surprised by the decision of the consortium’s board.

“I think we have reached a point where we need to make that transition,” he said. For the last decade the consortium “has done a wonderful service for the community, but we need to find an alternative.”

He said the big issue will be finding additional resources, should the grant money be insufficient to keep the clinic open. “That’s a big challenge in this time, but this is a community that can step up to the plate and do that,” he said.

As many as 25 people a day visit the clinic for medical, dental and behavioral health services. Neumeister said the consortium remains committed to taking care of Alaska Native homeless. But he said the responsibility of the general public needs to go back to the general public. He said Juneau has other organizations that provide services for the homeless.

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Information from: KTOO-FM, http://www.ktoo.org

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