MINORITY HEALTH: Native American Clinic Faces Closure
The American Indian Clinic, Los Angeles County's "only free clinic that targeted Native Americans," will most likely "fold by the end of the year." The Los Angeles Times reports that the clinic "owes creditors hundreds of thousands of dollars, and its finances are in disarray." The Bellflower-based clinic, which provides dental and health care, and an affiliated Compton-based rehab center, will be auctioned Dec. 30. The county has "promised that funds for the clinic and the [rehab center] will remain earmarked for Native American health services."
"Allegations of embezzlement and mismanagement have spread with news of the clinic's financial tailspin," the Times reports. A "coalition of staff and supporters ... accused the clinic's executive director, William Beckley of embezzling funds." The group has petitioned the state attorney general's office which "said investigators are reviewing the allegations." Beckley denies any wrongdoing, and county investigators "who are reviewing the clinic's books have found nothing to confirm the most serious allegations," only "a very badly managed agency." Clinic staff admit however, that the troubles aren't just financial, they also are cultural. The clinic's emphasis on "traditional aspects of tribal mores" has suffered in recent years as Native Americans increasingly reside in urban areas "far from the traditions of reservation life." Ron Hendrickson, program coordinator for the rehab clinic, said only about 10% of his patients this year were Native Americans -- a trend that highlights this group's feeling of being "removed from many tribal traditions" and feeling "intimidated by the unfamiliar traditions emphasized" at the rehab center. According to the Indian Health Service, "Los Angeles County is home to an estimated 61,000 Native Americans -- the largest population in the country outside the reservations" (Leonard, 12/14). Click minority health for past coverage of this issue.