Women's Community Clinic: An Interview with Carlina Hansen

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The mission of the Women’s Community Clinic is to improve the health and well-being of women and girls within the context of their values:  “We believe preventive, educational care is essential to lifelong health and that all women deserve excellent health care, regardless of their ability to pay and that “We work hard to ensure that each client feels comfortable and safe using her voice to direct the care she receives.”

Each year, the Clinic has expanded the number of patients served or the scope of care offered, and often both, to continue to scale up its efforts and care for more women. 95% of the women that seek care from the Women’s Community Clinic are uninsured and as clients of the Clinic, they are able to get high-quality care for low or no cost; thereby providing a “safety net” for those most in need.

Today, Carlina Hansen, Director of the Women’s Community Clinic, says the clinic provides care regardless of people’s ability to pay. This effort is enabled by a 30 person staff and over 150 volunteers that give their time to care for over 5,000 patients a year.

Origin Story

The Women’s Community Clinic began its work in 1999, when a clinic space became available and was transformed into a safe place for women and girls to get access to basic women’s health services. Building from an initial volunteer outreach effort to the community, dedicated health professionals and volunteer health workers offered their time at no cost to the Clinic to provide free care to women in San Francisco who might otherwise go without care.

Care Without Judgment

A few years after opening its doors, the Women’s Community Clinic launched it’s Outreach Program.  Through the Program the Clinic offers Ladies Night, a once-a-week ”drop-in” for homeless women as well as two nights a week of street outreach to unstably housed women in the Mission District in San Francisco.  These efforts were designed to make health educators and providers more accessible to women who are less likely to access community clinics and to create open dialogue about health questions and care. Health worker volunteers visit single room occupancy hotels and other locations in the Mission District of San Francisco, reaching over 1,000 of the extremely “at-risk” women per year to provide needed care and health information about drug use, violence, sexual activity and other topics.

Through its Outreach Program and through services offered at the clinic location, the Women’s Community Clinic is able to offer a consistent source of support for womenfor the health challenges and changes that they face throughout their lives. The Clinic prides itself on being a place people feel comfortable returning for care – a place they don’t feel judged for their choices.  As Hansen sees it, “Change doesn’t happen all at once—we’re here to support and guide people through change,” and she interprets this as a mission that extends beyond immediate care and out the clinic doors into the community.

Earning Their (Yelp) Stars

The Women’s Community Clinic surveyed its patients in 2011 and discovered that its client base was largely learning about it on Yelp.com. Rated higher than many private practices, the Women’s Community Clinic now takes advantage of this direct venue for patient feedback and encourages patients to submit reviews on-site, after appointments and using smart phones. Hansen says, “It’s about reaching patients where they are, and ours are looking for health care providers online.”

Looking Ahead

In 2014 the Affordable Care Act takes effect and will dramatically expand the number of people with access to healthcare. The Women’s Community Clinic is planning to increase the scope of the care they offer by adding mental health services and more primary care.These additions will support clients in staying with the Clinic throughout their lifespan and will help the Clinic respond to a broader range of health care needs.

Working With Tides

The Women’s Community Clinic has worked with the Tides Center since its inception, and it couldn’t have launched without Tides support. The Tides Center provided a back-office infrastructure and organizational support for growth. “Working with Tides allows us to focus on the work at hand, and outsource a lot of the back office support functions. It enables us to spend more time with our patients and clients providing them with the care they need,” says Hansen.

For more information on the Women’s Community Clinic, visit http://www.womenscommunityclinic.org/

To learn more about the Tides, visit http://www.tides.org/