Jul 20, 2022 - News

Salt Lake City clinic serving low-income and refugee communities to close

Illustration of a boarded-up window; the boards form a red cross.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A health clinic known for serving low-income, immigrant, and refugee communities on the west side of Salt Lake City is closing.

Details: The state-run Health Clinic of Utah will need to close its doors and transition by July 1, 2023.

  • Of note: A specific date has not yet been set for the clinic's closure.

Between the lines: Michelle Hoffman, deputy director of the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, said consolidation — or the merging of health organizations — is becoming more common in the health care system in order to increase efficiency.

What they're saying: "To have a single stand-alone clinic has been increasingly financially challenging to do," Hoffman added.

Details: About half of the clinic's budget has been subsidized by the state, and that funding has competed with the priorities of other social services, according to Hoffman.

  • She said UDHHS worked with the state legislature this year to create a transition plan for the clinic, which means looking for a new partner with a more sustainable funding base.
  • About 40% of patients who use the clinic are covered by Medicaid.
  • The clinic, located next door to the Utah Refugee Center, served a large number of Afghan refugees who arrived in the state last year.

Yes, but: Aden Batar, director of migration and refugee services for Catholic Community Services of Utah, said the clinic's closure would make it harder for patients in the area to access health care.

  • He said it would also put more pressure on other providers — Fourth Street Clinic and Maliheh Free Clinic — that serve low-income patients.
  • "If people don't have access to this, we will see a lot of people using the emergency room, which is going to cost the state more," he said, referring to patients who wait until their symptoms are dire before seeking health care.

The big picture: The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in decreasing revenues for many health providers across the nation, as patients delay elective services and health care needs, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

State of play: Hoffman said officials are still trying to figure out the best way to transition the clinic, as well as understanding its patients' needs, demographics, and insurance coverage in order to consider the next steps.

What's next: State health officials have until January 1, 2023, to present options to the legislature to transition the clinic.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.


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