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Local News

Neighborhood Clinics Ask Capps to Make a House Call

The lawmaker provides a progress report on the stimulus bill as the clinics grapple with a multipronged cash crunch.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, says the $888 billion stimulus bill that passed the House includes $500 million for community clinics like the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics. With Capps at the Eastside Clinic, 915 N. Milpas St., are, from left, Dr. David Chernof, the clinics' board chairman; executive director Cynder Sinclair; and board vice chairman Keith Coffman-Grey.
Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, says the $888 billion stimulus bill that passed the House includes $500 million for community clinics like the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics. With Capps at the Eastside Clinic, 915 N. Milpas St., are, from left, Dr. David Chernof, the clinics’ board chairman; executive director Cynder Sinclair; and board vice chairman Keith Coffman-Grey. (Michelle J. Wong / Noozhawk photo)

Facing a projected 10 percent increase in patient population this year, officials from the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics took their case for funding to Rep. Lois Capps. The Santa Barbara Democrat toured the Eastside Neighborhood Clinic, 915 N. Milpas St., on Monday afternoon during her visit home from Washington.

“We were very interested in seeing how the populations we served will be funded by the new legislation,” said Dr. David Chernof, the nonprofit organization’s board chairman.

Given the rise in the ranks of the uninsured, an estimated 57,000 patients will visit the neighborhood clinics this year. The clinics are located on Santa Barbara’s East and West sides, as well as in Isla Vista. In November, the Eastside Clinic’s Dental Center saw about a 1,000 patients.

It’s SBNC’s mission to serve all who come in, said Chernof, regardless of their ability to pay.

To serve the patients, SBNC is considering expanding its information systems and adding clinic hours. The budget increase would have to be “substantial,” said Chernof, who noted that the current budget is around $6.5 million.

According to Capps, the House version of the $888 billion stimulus bill would increase opportunities for people who are eligible for Medi-Cal and COBRA, as well as provide grants for health information technology and increase funding for prevention and primary care.

“If the legislation looks like what we passed last week in the House of Representatives, there’s $500 million designated for community clinics,” Capps said.

The goal, she said, is to get the legislation signed into law by mid-February. This week, the Senate is looking into the legislation and drafting its own bill.

The Neighborhood Clinics, like many organizations that receive funds from the state of California, has been feeling the effects of the economy.

“It’s not just the cuts,” said SBNC executive director Cynder Sinclair. “It’s the (state’s) taking longer to pay.”

While Chernof said the clinics should have adequate cash flow to the end of this month, it’s still unclear what will happen next.

“Not much will happen to us until the end of February as far as state funding, but I wouldn’t count on it because tomorrow something else may happen,” he said.

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