La Clínica de La Raza was founded in 1971 by a group of UC Berkeley students. Originally located in an East Oakland storefront, La ClÍnica has grown to be one of the largest Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in California. As a community-based clinic, La Clínica provides culturally-appropriate, high-quality preventive and primary healthcare to everyone, regardless of their income or status.
La Clínica has been a part of the Vallejo community for more than 17 years. In 2002, the organization was approached by a number of local healthcare providers looking for support in managing a struggling healthcare center in the city. Today, the nonprofit operates five Vallejo-based clinics, including those focusing exclusively on dental and behavioral health. Despite La Clínica’s strong presence throughout the city, the organization’s clinics are small and cannot meet the growing demand for healthcare services.
To address these challenges, La Clínica purchased a two-story former department store in 2016, only a few blocks from their long-standing medical office in downtown Vallejo. In 2019, Community Vision deployed $9 million in New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) to support the building’s renovations, as well as the relocation of the nonprofit’s downtown medical office and Vallejo-based dental clinic to the new 26,000-square-foot facility.
“Community Vision staff were thoughtful and responsive while we worked through the NMTC process. There was a great synergy between our staff.”
– Jane Garcia, La Clínica’s Chief Executive Officer
The new healthcare campus, located within walking distance from major bus lines and the Vallejo Ferry Terminal, is expected to open in 2020. This expansion will improve clinic efficiency and quality of care by building a new optometry clinic, expanding exam rooms from 14 to 24, dental chairs from 5 to 16, and will grow La Clínica’s capacity to see 5,000 more patients annually. There will also be space for conference rooms, administration, and behavioral health.
Update: La Clínica’s response to COVID-19 & the Black Lives Matters Movement
Despite the challenges arising from the pandemic, La Clínica continues with the construction of the Vallejo healthcare campus because it is deemed as an essential development. Community Health Centers (CHCs), like La Clínica, are a critical part of California’s health care system because they fill an important gap of health coverage for millions of Californians. Across the state there are nearly 1,300 CHCs that serve 1 out of 6 Californians every year.
Many people served by La Clínica are also some of the most vulnerable to and disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including people of color, people with pre-existing conditions, people who are monolingual and non-English speaking, and people with low-income. La Clínica staff adapted health and safety information for their clients because standard advice may not fit their lived experiences. For example, some people are unable to work from home and some live in large households where distancing isn’t possible.
An unintended consequence of California’s shelter-in-place mandate combined with Bay Area Counties abiding by stricter social distancing orders resulted in clients not seeking the health services they would normally receive. This led to CHCs in the Bay Area losing millions and struggling to keep their doors open. Within the first month of shelter-in-place, La Clínica saw a 30% decrease in in-person visits, lost nearly $3 million in revenue, and had to furlough more than 300 employees. Along with county and state coalitions, La Clínica is advocating for funding and resources to ensure CHCs can continue delivering health services.
With the recent surge of solidarity behind the Black Lives Matters movement, La Clínica is speaking out about how structural violence shows up physically in the lives of Black people; highlighting disproportionate rates of COVID and continued killings by law enforcement of unarmed Black people. For La Clínica raising awareness to social injustices is a part of the organization’s work. La Clínica was born out of the Civil Rights movement, and founded specifically to serve people whose health care needs were not being met.
You can read a statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matters from the Community Clinic Consortium Staff here, and you can follow their advocacy efforts for Community Health Centers on their Facebook page.