Homeless Clinic Looking to Grow

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A health clinic for the homeless in Denver is getting a big boost for its ambitious expansion plans, in the form of a $5 million federal grant. It’s part of $22 million the White House announced it’s sending some Colorado safety net clinics on Tuesday.

The money’s authorized by the big federal health care law, the one that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering. CPR Health Reporter Eric Whitney looks at what that means.

Here is a transcript of Eric’s story.

Reporter: Four days a week, Stout Street Clinic for the homeless opens at eight AM. It’s not unusual for people like this woman to show up a couple of hours early to get a place in line.

Valerie: Yes, hi my name is Valerie, I’m from Denver Colorado.

Reporter:: Why are you here today?

Valerie: Because I need help with medications. I’m homeless right now, I’ve been coming here to the Stout Street Clinic I would say, off and on for over 8 years.

Reporter: Stout Street treats more than 13,000 people like Valerie every year, offering everything from basic doctoring, to mental health services, to a dental clinic and a discount pharmacy. But there’s more demand than the clinic can meet. Some days they have to turn away 20 people or more. Part of the problem is, there just isn’t enough space.

John Parvensky is president of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, which runs Stout Street Clinic out of an old converted warehouse.

Parvensky: We’ve grown to basically use every inch of the space as efficiently as we can. So the waiting area is not the most inviting, it gets overly crowded at times of the day and becomes difficult for some people, particularly those who are mentally ill and don’t do well with large crowds, to be able to access services. We don’t have enough exam rooms to be able serve as many people as we could efficiently in a more modern clinic facility.

Reporter: Parvensky has plans to build a new clinic facility, a really nice one. They even have the land, a vacant building sits on it now, right across the street from the clinic’s current location at 2100 Broadway.

Reporter: So, this is the building site?

Parvensky: Yes, basically, this whole block from 21st to 22nd, we’ve been able to acquire the land, and we’re doing a design for a 56,000 square foot facility, about double the size of our existing clinic, with plans to do 78 units of housing then up above that.

Reporter: The housing units are for people who are homeless now. Folks at Stout Street like to say that housing is healthcare, that treating someone’s illness and then sending them out to sleep under a bridge is of limited value. Parvensky says the 78 housing units will only make a small dent in Denver’s homeless problem, but that the new, bigger clinic will really help meet demand. And Stout Street is expecting a lot more demand in a couple of years. In 2014 the federal health care law is supposed to extend Medicaid coverage to a lot more people than it does now, and they think that when more people have a Medicaid card, they’ll be more likely to seek out health care than they are now.

The people who wrote the federal health care law think like that, too, which led to this little event outside the clinic Tuesday.

Reporter: A regional federal official came to Stout Street for a press conference to announce that the health care law is sending $22 million to several Colorado safety net clinics. Stout street is getting $5 million of that to help turn their expansion plans into reality.

Parvensky: This is a start, we have commitments for about two million additional dollars from the private sector.

Reporter: Parvensky says the Coalition will have to raise more money and put together a complicated financing scheme to come up with the $30 million they will need for the clinic and housing project. He expects the grant provided by the federal government will jumpstart their fundraising campaign. But hanging over the whole project is the prospect that the Supreme Court could throw out the federal health care law. It’s unclear whether that would mean organizations that got grants under the law would have to send money back. For now, Stout Street Clinic is going ahead with plans for its new clinic, and hopes to open it in early 2014.

[Image: Colorado Coalition for the Homeless]