Before the budget was passed, I worked with the City Manager to craft an amendment that would keep The Needle Exchange, STD/HIV Testing, and the Free Clinic in place at India Street. That amendment passed unanimously.
Now, seven months later, here's where those programs—and the Positive Health Care program—stand.
It’s important to note that the Portland Community Free Clinic is not a city run program. It is an independent nonprofit with its own Board of Directors. However, the Free Clinic had benefited for years by co-locating with the city’s public health center and having the city pick up the cost of its rent. One concern I and others had was that the Free Clinic would have to move to a new location, possibly even out of Portland, if that arrangement were to change.
Fortunately, all of my fellow Councilors agreed that keeping the Free Clinic in place to complement the Needle Exchange and testing services was important, and—as I mentioned before—my amendment passed with unanimous support, keeping all of these services open at their India Street location.
Indeed, given the severity of the opioid crisis in Maine, the City Manager has been researching ways to improve the City’s ability to deal with issues of addiction and substance use disorder. Considering the tenor of the current administration in Augusta, the City Manager believes the City of Portland will need to step up our efforts in this realm over the next two years to bridge the gap between this administation and the next, and I agree.
I am committed to working with the City Manager and my fellow councilors to ensure that the Needle Exchange, STD and HIV testing, and the Free Clinic receive the support the need to remain open and successful.
As of November 10th, all but 11 of the 229 patients who had accessed these services at India Street had been personally contacted by city staff to discuss their options and plan their future care. More than 200 patients have either already had their first appointment with their new provider or have that appointment scheduled.
City staff was incredibly thorough in their outreach, even contacting patients who hadn’t used the clinic in over 18 months. Under some guidelines, those patients would not be considered “active” patients, but city staff members were committed to contacting all of them to make sure that no one was left without a new healthcare provider.
A little over half of the patients who accessed India Street for Positive Healthcare services were from Portland, and at present about 50 patients are in the process of transferring their care to Greater Portland Health. Some patients who were from other towns or counties opted for healthcare providers closer to their homes.
The transition of the Ryan White grant that funds this program will be complete on December 31, 2016, and city staff will have final numbers and results in early 2017, so I’ll plan to do another update and a look back at this process then. In the meantime, take a look at this Portland Forecaster article talking about the overall success of the transition. November 21 Portland Forecaster article.
For background on this issue, check out the blog posts I made during the process back in 2015: