The New Generation Health Center at 625 Potrero Avenue. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

See update below.

One of a handful of youth clinics serving the Mission, Bayview, Excelsior, and Visitacion Valley communities will be shut down by the end of April, a move decried by school nurses who say it leaves young women and men of color without easy access to birth control, testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and reproductive health education.

“There’s going to be a lot of schools in this area that are going to be severely impacted by not having them in this area,” said Mary-Michael Watts, a nurse at Mission High School.

Staff at the New Generation Health Center, which is run with personnel from the University of California at San Francisco and located at 625 Potrero Ave., received 30-day notices of termination on March 1. One nurse has been laid off already, according to its outreach coordinator Tino Ratfliff, and the clinic will be operating with a skeleton crew until its closure.

In a statement, UCSF said the closure was prompted by “financial reasons” and that patients would be able to seek treatment at other nearby clinics. They also pointed to a drop in patients recently due to expanded health care coverage from the Affordable Care Act, but did not provide any numbers.

Ratliff was more specific, saying that UCSF reported 50 percent fewer patients at the clinic in recent years.

“It’s not a little number,” he said. “The patients we see — people are moving out of the city, it’s too expensive for them to live here.”

That surprised school nurses, who said they haven’t noticed a drop in student referrals.

“I would say people are as sexually active as they have ever been,” said Watts from Mission High.

The clinic has been on Potrero since 1997 and has the stated goal of decreasing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections among youth of color. 

Watts sends two to three students to the clinic a week for reproductive health services not offered at Mission High — like pregnancy testing and emergency contraception — and said the closure of her “go-to clinic” would mostly affect the black and brown students she refers.

“It’s doing a huge disservice to the population here that’s already disadvantaged,” she said.

According to data on its website, 64 percent of the 1,985 patients it sees every year are from the Mission, Bayview, Excelsior, and Visitacion Valley communities. Some 80 percent are Latino, Asian, or black and 94 percent are between 15 and 24 years old.

“I’m really concerned about the closure,” said Wendy Snider, a wellness coordinator at Thurgood Marshall High School in the Bayview. Snider said half of the four to five students she refers to outside clinics weekly go to New Generation because it’s well-known to them.

“A lot of our students are coming from the Mission and Portola, so they’re not familiar with [other clinics],” she said. “When you start sending kids [to clinics] that are not as familiar to them, then the follow-up is much less [frequent].”

The New Generation Health Center as seen from Potrero. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

Not all are worried. Beth Brown, the manager of the clinic, said San Francisco has many other clinics that New Generation’s patients can attend and that the clinic’s staff can apply to work elsewhere within the sprawling UCSF medical system. The university said fewer than 10 staff members would be laid off.

“We have great clinics in the communities and these neighborhoods, and we’re not worried about [patients] finding places to get great care,” she said. “The University of California at San Francisco is a big employer…I’m not worried for any of us [staff].”

Joi Jackson-Morgan, who is the deputy director at the Third Street Youth Center and Clinic in the Bayview, was less optimistic. She acknowledged that her clinic and others in the area might be able to absorb patients that would otherwise go to New Generation, but worried that some patients would opt not to go to appointments for fear of running into family members.

“Closing a dedicated youth clinic would increase the chances of patients running into family members,” she said.

Watts, the nurse from Mission High, says the confidentiality of New Generation is a key selling point for students concerned about sharing their sexual activities with family. They worry about going to the same clinics as their parents, she said, and require a youth-only space.

“The advantage of New Generation is that there’s never a bill sent home,” she said. “It’s not like going to Mission Neighborhood [Health Clinic] and running into your auntie who’s there for something else.”

The “vast majority” of patients income-qualify for a state program that pays for coverage, according to Ratliff. That’s critical for those hoping to stay off their family’s medical bills and those in the country without documentation.

“This is where undocumented youth can go,” Jackson-Morgan said. “Case in point: birth control. If a young woman wants an IUD, out of pocket, it would be $800-$1,000. It’s free at this clinic…so if you’re undocumented it doesn’t cost any of that.”

Jackson-Morgan was harshly critical of the closure. She said UCSF is hypocritical for embracing purported progressive values while at the same time closing a clinic that services minority neighborhoods in San Francisco — especially in light of the new Mission Bay facility.

“They said it costs to much but they can put this new facility in Mission Bay?” she asked. “We both know the city’s changing, so it’s a trip that you’re going to close down this one particular clinic that’s serving the most people of color in hopes that [you] push them down that way to Mission Bay.”

“They’re really trying to do this very hush-hush,” she added, saying no patients have been told of the closure.

But school nurses have. At the monthly meeting of wellness coordinators — who are stationed at every high school in the city — last Wednesday, there was grave concern about the clinic’s closing.

“We were just mortified that this service was going to possibly close,” said Jodi Tsapis, a wellness coordinator at Downtown High School in Potrero Hill. Letters were sent to city supervisors, the UCSF chancellor, and the medical director of the clinic to protest the closure, she said.

“We definitely were saying ‘What can we do to advocate for New Generation?’ It wasn’t just something that went into thin air,” she said.

“We’re all wondering ‘What can we do? How can we make noise? How can we reach out to change the direction?’” added Watts.

Update: The University of California at San Francisco announced Friday that the closure of New Generation would be delayed until July 31 so the university could coordinate with the Department of Public Health to transition the center’s patients to other health clinics. 

Follow Us

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *