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King County Clinic Gets Reprieve, But Cloud Still Hangs Over Public Health Budget

Gabriel Spitzer
The Greenbridge clinic in White Center will stay open, at least for the next couple of years, thanks to help from Seattle and Planned Parenthood.

A King County public health clinic slated for closure is getting a bailout, but three more clinics remain on the line as the health department confronts a big budget shortfall.

The public health clinic at White Center has been on borrowed time this year, along with clinics in Auburn, Bothell and Federal Way. Now the city of Seattle is proposing to kick in $400,000 to keep it open. Public Health Seattle & King County will continue providing WIC services and other support for new mothers, but will turn its family planning services there over to Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest will relocate its West Seattle office to the clinic. CEO Chris Charbonneau said it will be crucial to ensure people don’t lose access to care.

“We’ll come together as a public-private partnership to ensure that there are no holes in that care. And we’ll continue to innovate to compensate, frankly, for the money we no longer have to do this in other ways,” Charbonneau said.

County Executive Dow Constantine said he hopes to find partners for the other endangered clinics, too.

“We are having similar conversations around the county with local governments, with community organizations, even with our own employees about finding ways to keep clinics open,” Constantine said. “And it is my hope that I will be able to announce before too long that we’ll be able to keep at least one other clinic open.”

The department faces a $15 million hole in its budget, which it blames on initiatives approved by voters that curb car tab and property taxes. Officials say they have exhausted the short-term fixes that have delayed having to make the cuts.

Even for the White Center clinic, it is unclear how long the reprieve will last. The city money is a one-year commitment, and the health department has only pledged to maintain its services there for two years.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.