Regina Rogoff

The People’s Community Clinic, located on 30th street and I-35, has decided to open a new location on Camino la Costa. Austin City Council voted Thursday to waive building permit fees for the new location.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

After 45 years, the People’s Community Clinic is expanding its reach and building a second Austin location in hopes of making health care more accessible for its patients.

The Austin City Council voted Thursday to waive building permit fees for the clinic’s second location on Camino La Costa, in northeast Austin, to cover extra expenses. About 15 percent of the clinic’s patients live within two miles of the current location, and the second location will allow more convenient access to health care for patients who live in the northeast Austin area.

City Council member Ora Houston, a co-sponsor of the bill, said she has watched the clinic grow past its ability to serve the current need.

“They do primary health care for children and adults and seniors,” Houston said. “They’ve been over close to my neighborhood for the last, maybe, 10 or 15 years right down the access road, and it’s always packed. They’ve outgrown their space.”

The Council waived $33,803.12 in construction fees for clinic’s new facilities.  

The People’s Community Clinic is currently fundraising to build the new facilities, the clinic’s CEO Regina Rogoff said. 

“We are raising $16 million to turn this old building into a brand new community asset,” Rogoff said. “When we bought it, it was an old, rundown eyesore of a building. We are converting it into a medical practice that will serve the community.” 

Volunteer nurses and doctors started the clinic in 1970. The clinic was originally located in the basement of the Congregational Church on Guadalupe Street, across from the UT campus, according to Rogoff. It moved to its current location in 1990.

“It was started by volunteer doctors and nurses who perceived a need that young people particularly were not getting access to family planning,” Rogoff said. “There was clearly a gap, so they started a volunteer clinic that opened two nights a week. It’s now grown into a full family practice that covers the life cycle of the family.”

Rogoff said the clinic served primarily UT students, many of them women, when they were still located on Guadalupe Street.

“There was a lot of political activity around UT back then,” Rogoff said. “There was a movement around women to regain control of their reproductive health, and that was the ethos that People’s Community Clinic was born into.”

The clinic has since shifted its consumer base, Rogoff said.

“We aren’t really serving the original population,” Rogoff said. “We are serving low-income families. It’s shifted because we have a strong pre-natal program. We had over 900 babies born into the practice, and [then we] bring them in as new patients.”

The clinic has a strong focus on women’s health issues, Rogoff said.

“Not necessarily because we want to exclude men, but because women tend to use health care more, especially when you have prenatal services,” Rogoff said. “And although men would benefit from reproductive services, females go in for family planning more. The numbers tilt toward women, [but] we welcome men.”

City Council member Gregorio Casar sponsored the bill because the clinic will have a location in his district: District 4. 

“I’m very excited to help support People’s Community Clinic as they set roots in the St. John’s neighborhood and expand access to critical, low-cost health care services,” Casar said in a statement Thursday. “This clinic will support our entire city’s fiscal and physical health.”

The building should be completed in November, Rogoff said.

 

[Corrected 2:12 p.m. on Sept. 2: Because of an editing error, the headline that ran in the print version of this story incorrectly stated UHS offers free services to students.] 

The resources of three Austin-area family planning clinics will soon be stretched thin as a result of reductions in state and federal funding.

Under the new state budget which took effect Thursday, El Buen Samaritano, the People’s Community Clinic and Planned Parenthood will receive $1.4 million less in government subsidies than in the past, clinic officials said at a press conference Thursday. In addition to general health services for uninsured Austin residents, these clinics also provide primary prevention services for women’s health and encourage screenings for breast, cervical and testicular cancers, as well as anemia, hypertension, diabetes and sexually transmitted diseases.

In response to these budget cuts, University Health Services consumer education and outreach coordinator Sherry Bell said it’s important to remind students that the University offers its own range of women’s health services.

“If resources in the community are affected, it’s even more important for students to be aware of the services offered through UHS,” Bell said. “To find out what’s available here at UHS, students can go to www.healthyhorns.utexas.edu and click ‘Women’s Health.’”

Regina Rogoff, chief executive officer of the People’s Community Clinic, said these cuts don’t necessarily mean the quality or range of services offered at her clinic will be affected.

“In spite of the draconian budget cuts, we will be working at no cost [to our services’ quality] to continue providing services to low-income women,” Rogoff said.

She said that in the short term, the clinic will tap into its reserves to make up for the cuts and also work toward acquiring new sources of funding. However, some patients will no longer be offered services at zero cost and will be asked to contribute what they can.

“The solution is not less care but to encourage the community to step in to support the health needs of the uninsured,” Rogoff said.

The cuts will close the access these clinics had to reduced prices for contraceptive devices and drugs, Rogoff said.

Celia Neavel, the director of adolescent health for the People’s Community Clinic, said the clinic’s services have been effective in reducing the teen pregnancy problems in Texas, but she fears the budget cuts might slow down progress.

Texas is ranked first in the nation for teens who have had a second child, according to a 2009 study by the nonprofit research group Child Trends. Neavel said her clinics’ teen patients have a 9-percent chance of a repeat pregnancy, while the national average is 21 percent. She said the cuts will have a negative effect on keeping these rates low, which
in turn also affects college dropout rates.

“We encourage teens to use our services in order to prevent a second pregnancy,” Neavel said. “Becoming pregnant a second time often doesn’t allow them to continue their education.”

Public relations senior Lorianne Kendall said the cuts are a counterintuitive measure.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Kendall said. “By cutting that funding, you’re basically reducing knowledge about safe sex and unwanted pregnancies, and it exacerbates the issue."

Printed on Friday, September 2, 2011 as: UHS will still offer free services despite state funding cuts