PORTLAND, Ore. -- A gentrifying Northeast Portland is forcing out many longtime residents, and a free health clinic providing vital care to the community almost joined that list.
The North by Northeast Community Health Center’s home at the Garlington Center on MLK Boulevard is being turned into low income housing, so the clinic went searching for a new home. For months, the prospects were not encouraging.
“We were getting very concerned about our ability to stay in the neighborhood,” said Medical Director Dr. Jill Ginsburg.
Then the clinic found space in a building on Northeast Alberta Street and 7th Avenue, and renovated it largely with a grant from the Portland Development Commission. Fast forward to Monday, and the waiting room was buzzing with patients.
“For me, it’s a life saver,” said patient Jerry Cunningham. “It helped me get through a life threatening issue, and without them I never would have known I had it, so it’s been a blessing.”
Cunningham said he went in for help with what he thought was an ingrown toenail, and by the time other tests were run, he learned he had dangerous blood clots in his leg.
Dr. Ginsburg said when the clinic started in 2006 at the urging of Pastor Mary Overstreet, a local minister who pushed for a free clinic serving the area’s largely African American population, none of the patients had medical insurance. Now, some 90 percent are covered, thanks in large part to the Affordable Care Act and Oregon’s Medicaid expansion.
Many of the patients suffer from chronic health conditions like diabetes and hypertension, which can be managed with consistent health care.
“People can walk around with high blood pressure and diabetes for a long time and not realize they’re at risk for bad things happening,” said Dr. Ginsburg. “And we can often manage these conditions with a couple of simple prescriptions.”