August 13, 2015

Chair Kafoury speaks at the grand opening of Bud Clark Clinic on Wednesday.

On Aug. 12, about 85 community members and partners gathered to celebrate the opening of the Bud Clark Clinic, housed at the Bud Clark Commons in Portland. The event coincided with National Health Center Week, a celebration honoring the 50-year tradition of bringing care to low-income and uninsured people through community health centers.

The clinic is located near the Union Station in northwest Portland, on the fourth floor of the Bud Clark Commons building. The building also serves people who are in need of shelter, employment and medical and dental care.

The new drop-in clinic will provide short-term, immediate health care for residents and individuals who use all the services provided in Bud Clark Commons. The clinic addresses a wide range of health care needs from skin conditions to medication refills.

Central City Concern Executive Director Ed Blackburn addresses the crowd.
Central City Concern Executive Director Ed Blackburn addresses the crowd.

Central City Concern Executive Director Ed Blackburn kicked off the clinic opening, along with guest speakers Chair Deborah Kafoury and Rep. Earl Blumenauer.  

“I’ve been at Central City Concern for 24 years and in the beginning I couldn’t have imagined something like this existed,” said Blackburn. “And to see the cooperation between the county, Home Forward and Transition Projects, Inc. make this happen is a real blessing for homeless people.”

In March 2014, Multnomah County’s Health Department launched the clinic with funding from the Health Commons grant through Health Share of Oregon, one of the state’s coordinated care organizations.

The pilot program aimed to reduce costly emergency visits and improve primary care use for people experiencing homelessness, substance abuse and mental illness. The goal was to build trust and connect people to long-term services.  

So far that’s exactly what the program has accomplished, according to Kim Toevs, Multnomah County Health Department senior manager. Toevs was among those who spearheaded the project. 

The clinic has served more than 800 clients with about 2,300 visits.

When the grant ended in June 2015, Central City Concern, another community health center in this region, decided to fund and manage the clinic to continue its good work.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer
Rep. Earl Blumenauer
“To think we can alleviate a lot of unnecessary suffering and help people get well, and hopefully be on our way to end homelessness - that’s very gratifying,” said Blackburn.

At Wednesday's event, Chair Deborah Kafoury spoke about how the people behind community health centers work tirelessly to eliminate barriers and serve vulnerable communities.

She also touched on the humble beginnings of Multnomah County’s community health centers.  

“Our La Clínica de Buena Salud site began in a two-bedroom apartment,” Kafoury told the large crowd on Wednesday morning. “The lab was in the kitchen. Our East County Health Center started in former roller skating rink in Gresham. And while our facilities have improved – some of them are almost as nice as this one – the need and the commitment to meet that need still remains.”

Now Multnomah County oversees medical, dental and pharmacy services in more than 20 clinics and schools. Each year they help people who may not have access essential health services otherwise.  

“We do all this and so much more,” said Kafoury. “Long before the Affordable Care Act made it possible for the hundreds of thousands of Oregonians to meet their basic health care needs, there were community health centers like these. No matter the color of your skin, how much money you make or where you slept last night, you can see a doctor at a community health clinic.”