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King County Cobbles Together 'Ad Hoc Funding' To Put Off Clinic Closures

Gabriel Spitzer
Public health clinics like this one in West Seattle were given a reprieve through temporary funding sources.

The King County Council has approved a budget that will preserve all 10 of the county’s public health clinics. The move took a patchwork of temporary measures to hold the planned cuts at bay.

County officials have slowly been piecing together strategies to keep the clinics open, mostly with money from local governments and help from other health care providers. The latest to be rescued is the Northshore Center in Bothell, which had been set to shut down. That follows a similar move to save the clinic in Auburn earlier this month.

But county budget director Dwight Dively says the moves only push off the crisis another two years, or in the case of the Bothell clinic, just one year. He says many of the funders who stepped in specifically said this was a one-time thing.

“So the fact that we were able to cobble together a whole bunch of ad hoc funding sources to survive for a year or two doesn’t suggest that that same strategy is going to work in the long run,” Dively said.

Public Health – Seattle & King County faces a structural deficit dating back to caps on taxes and car tab fees more than a decade ago.

The department will still cut some services, including family planning at two clinics and tobacco and obesity prevention programs. The budget eliminates about 100 Public Health positions, half of which are currently filled.

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