July 23, 2008

Clinic Serving Tiny Knights Landing Slated to Close

By Hudson Sangree, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.

Jul. 23--A clinic that provides the only source of medical care to low-income residents of Knights Landing will shut its doors for good, in part because of proposed state budget cuts, its directors say.

When the Yolo County nonprofit CommuniCare Health Centers opened its Knights Landing clinic five years ago, it was hailed as a benefit to children and farmworkers -- and as a sign of progress.

The 1,100 residents in the faded farm town on the Sacramento River had few services, least of all medical care for the working poor.

Today the situation is much the same.

Many services are available in Woodland, about 10 miles away, but buses run just two days a week.

The problem comes when families don't have a car or when, as often happens, fathers use the family car for work and leave mothers with children at home.

"That 10 miles to Woodland is a significant gap for people trying to get to medical appointments," said Carolyn Castillo Pierson, director of the Yolo Family Resource Center.

The center, which provides a range of social services and education, shares a building with the clinic next to Grafton Elementary School.

The configuration has made it easy for parents with young children to bring them to the clinic and make use of the resource center.

The clinic is open 12 hours a week and staffed with a nurse practitioner and physician's assistant. A doctor visits once a week.

But with only 300 to 400 patients each year, it has struggled to stay afloat.

A grant from a private foundation kept the clinic open for two years, but the money ran out at the end of 2007.

Now, the Davis-based CommuniCare is facing a $1 million budget shortfall and has to cut costs, said Executive Director Robin Affrime.

For years, the CommuniCare board of directors has wrestled with the fate of the Knights Landing clinic, which is underused and runs at a loss, she said.

"The Knights Landing clinic never was sustainable," Affrime said.

Making things worse, the state is proposing 10 percent to 15 percent cuts to programs that serve the uninsured, farmworkers and rural residents.

Cuts are also proposed to programs for substance abuse, mental health counseling and dental treatment.

It is money that low-income clinics around the state depend on, Affrime said.

"There is so much uncertainty about the state budget for CommuniCare and clinics in general," she said.

The Knights Landing clinic is scheduled to close Aug. 8.

CommuniCare staff will be on site to help transfer patients to clinics in Woodland and Davis.

Pierson said she is hoping to find a way for medical providers to at least visit Knights Landing on a regular basis.

"It's unfortunate," Pierson said. "These are the neediest of the needy."


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