Imperiled by a loss of funding and an expiring lease, a year of uncertainty about the future of the New Generation Health Center ended this week with relatively good news for its staff and patients – the clinic will continue its operations, but at a new and much smaller location across the street.
Come September, New Generation will move into the 2500 18th St. facility near Potrero Avenue that is owned and operated by the Homeless Prenatal Program.
At its current location nearby at 625 Potrero Ave., the clinic for some two decades has offered youth and young adults from the Mission and other southern neighborhoods access to the city’s reproductive health care system. The University of California at San Francisco has long run the public clinic, but last March announced plans to shut it down.
In a collaborative effort to ensure New Generation’s continued funding, UCSF has partnered with the Department of Public Health. Barbara Garcia, the department’s director, called the decision to co-locate New Generation with the Homeless Prenatal Program a “great outcome for our community.”
“The [Homeless Prenatal Program] has clients that will benefit from New Generation’s services,” said Garcia. “We believe that young people will continue to come [the new facility] because it’s just around the corner.”
Through agreements reached between UCSF and the Department of Public Health on Monday, the clinic will be housed by the prenatal clinic and staffed by UCSF. Its clinical operations will be funded by the city’s health department with some $722,000 annually, and UCSF will also continue to provide financial support, some $213,000 annually, for its ongoing operations and for leasing the space.
According to a press release issued by UCSF on Wednesday, New Generation will be a “joint venture between UCSF and DPH,” operating under a health department license.
A small group of community members determined to keep New Generation open and operating at full capacity say the move to the prenatal clinic was one of a few options pursued by UCSF and while not ideal, came as a lifeline for the clinic.
“A year wasn’t enough time to get everything together to search and research every viable option,” said Joi Jackson Morgan, executive director of Third Street youth Center and Clinic who has advocated for saving New Generation. “[The clinic] is being saved to a certain extent – this gives us an opportunity to continue serving our low-income, newcomer and youth patients.”
The proposed move would mean downsizing the clinic’s capacity significantly – from its current four exam rooms and 2,400 square feet to two exam rooms spanning roughly 850 square feet.
The clinic, popular among youth service providers for its same-day referrals and accessibility, will also roll back its hours – from operating for five full days down to three full days and two half days each week.
“Everyone wants to see New Generation saved and I am so impressed with the community support,” said Mary Michael Watts, a nurse at Mission High School and advocate for the clinic. “I’m really happy that they are in the [Homeless Prenatal Program’s] building because I think its a very mutually supportive enviroment.”
Watts and other community stakeholders reacted to news of the clinic’s impending closure by launching a website to raise awareness and by attempting to raise $100,000 through an independent crowdsourcing campaign. Over the course of a month, they managed to raise some $22,000 from over 200 donors.
Still, Watts expressed concerns over the clinic’s decreased capacity in serving its some 2,200 annual patients.
“I am hoping that they make it work out so that they have services available as they currently do – which is on an everyday availability,” she said.
The advocates had pressed the clinic’s administrators to negotiate a lease extension with the building’s property owner, hoping to buy time to find a more appropriate location.
Last August, the building that housed New Generation was sold to a property management company, and faced with an expiring lease there, UCSF was unwilling to invest in seismic and ADA code renovations that were required for a lease renewal.
Service providers would have preferred keeping the clinic open and running at full capacity, but the clinic’s administrators said that remaining in the current location was never an option.
“Doing a seismic upgrade is so much more expensive than what we are doing right now – and you would have to close the clinic for x number of months,” said Dr. Rebecca Jackson, chief of service for OB-GYN at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and the clinic’s supervisor.
Jackson, too, was able to rally substantial support for the clinic from UCSF departments as well as from private and faculty donors – her efforts raised some $1.3 million in total.
Those invested in keeping the clinic open said they fought to maintain a vital resource for the city’s youth and underserved communities.
“There are not a lot of places in that neighborhood [that are] exclusively for young adults, which shifts who they will see and their belief in safety and confidentiality,” said Ashley Rojas, project coordinator with the Adolescent Health Working Group.
“Very few 15 year olds will feel comfortable going to a clinic where their Tia or neighbor is going to get chronic medical needs met. It’s about giving them the sensitivity they deserve in San Francisco, the confidentiality and access,” she said.
New Generation’s patients are 92 percent people of color, 76 percent are uninsured, and 80 percent are below the federal poverty line. Reproductive rights advocates said that the clinic and others like it are dwindling public resources for San Francisco’s youth in a political climate that is growing increasingly hostile to their emotional and physical wellbeing.
“These small clinics have acted as a safety net for these vulnerable populations. If we are truly a sanctuary city, how are we taking away this basic human right?” said Jackson Morgan, of the Third Street Youth Center and Clinic.
Watts, the high school nurse who has worked in the school district for a decade, said that she refers students to New Generation on a daily basis.
“They are experts. Every time I send a kid in, they are available. They are caring,” said Watts. “If they are not available three mornings a week that’s a hot mess for me.”
The clinic will continue operating at 625 Potrero Ave. through September. During that time, the prenatal program’s facility will be built out to serve new patients there come Fall. The renovation and move are expected to cost some $700,000, and will be funded by UCSF philanthropic donations.
Still, Garcia, the department’s director, said that some cutbacks feared by the advocates are to be expected.
“Anytime you move a facility, you do lose some clientele,” said Garcia. “I can’t guarantee it will stay the same. But this is a clinic that was closing and keeping it open was the most important part.”