COMMUNICARE HEALTH CENTERS: Evolved To Meet Changing Needs
Founded in the "hippie" era of 1972 when a doctor began "seeing patients without charge in a local shelter for runaways in Davis," the Davis Free Clinic, now known as CommuniCare Health Centers, has evolved into a major regional safety-net provider. The clinic "has become a $4.1 million nonprofit agency with three medical clinics and a drug rehabilitation center, 133 employees, and a small army of more than 200 volunteers, including about 100 physicians and 20 dentists." In addition, "CommuniCare's health-care services have expanded through the years to include perinatal, women's health, HIV testing and podiatry services" and translation services in seven languages. Despite the expansion, the Sacramento Bee reports, "the organization's mission has stayed constant -- providing health care for men, women and children regardless of their ability to pay." Patients range from the working poor to farm workers and students. Laura Hogan, the organization's executive director of planning and program development, said, "There are people who are out of the system and can't afford health care or are uninsured. A lot of people don't qualify for Medi-Cal. One in five people are uninsured in California." In fact, the number of working poor patients that CommuniCare serves has doubled since 1990 from 5,200 to 12,000.
Carmela Castellano, CEO of the California Primary Care Association, said, "CommuniCare is making a tremendous contribution to its community. They are a free clinic and they have been able to create a very innovative program by relying on their volunteers. They are a model." The Bee notes that CommuniCare is one of the few community clinics that is not federally funded and relies heavily on volunteers. "CommuniCare receives funding from 40 different sources that include private donations, foundation grants and government contracts;" it also receives Medi-Cal reimbursements and payment from patients that are able to "pay out of their pocket on a sliding scale." It is also part of the Yolo Health Alliance, along with Sutter Davis Hospital and the Sutter West Medical Group, and as such staffs and manages Salud Clinic in West Sacramento and Peterson Clinic in Woodland, as well as primary care clinics, under county contracts to provide care to the medically indigent (Chan, 4/27).