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Brownsville Health Clinic to Close if State Funding Not Allocated in This Week

Public Health Solutions Brownsville and Clinton Hill locations, which serve predominantly low income women, face imminent closure
Screenshot 2021-04-01 at 11.10.54
Public Health Solutions Brownsville clinic. Photo: Google Maps.

A Brownsville healthcare clinic that has served generations of predominantly low-income women of color is at risk of closure if the state does not allocate funding in this week's budget, NBC reports.

The sexual and reproductive health clinic run by Public Health Solutions, along with its Clinton Hill counterpart, are set to lose almost $1.8 million in funding based on Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal, which is due in its final form Thursday.

The clinics offer birth control counseling, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, midwife-led prenatal care and referrals for adoption and abortion at low- or no-cost. And, unlike most hospital clinics, the clinics pair pregnant women with midwives and doulas.

Without the funding, 3,500 Brooklyn patients would have to find new clinics to receive care, and could struggle to find places that provided the same low-cost, personalized service.

Public Health Solutions' patients are predominantly Black and Latino women whose incomes fall below the federal poverty line, and the clinic does not turn patients away due to a lack of funds — treating undocumented people and youth without using their parents' insurance,  PHS Medical Director Dr. April Lockley told NBC.

She added most staff members were people of color and many had worked there for years: "Our team really reflects the community. Patients really come to know us."

Paulette Hilton, 44, has been going to the Eastern Parkway clinic since 1998 and her three daughters, all in there 20s, go there now too.

"The clinic is so welcoming, so that's like a part of my home," she said, adding all the doctors treated her with respect and one staffer even called her on her birthdays.

Hilton said she didn't know where her or her daughters would go for their gynecological care if the clinic had to close.

PHS first received the state funding when the Trump administration made it ineligible for federal funds due to it providing referral services for abortions. But the state's $1.8 billion emergency funding expired Wednesday. While the new administration is reversing Trump's rule change, those changes won't be in place until fall meaning the clinic would be without half of its revenue for almost a year.

Public Health Solutions CEO Lisa David told NBC without replacement funding it would start closing the clinics Friday. "This is solvable, and I think they have the resources to solve it. But everyone is extremely distracted in Albany."

Clinics like PHS provide patients in often-under resourced communities not just an affordable option, but one where their needs are understood and met.

Black women in the United States are three times more likely to die from pregnancy and birth related than white women, and in New York City that rate is even worse, with Black women being eight to 12 times more likely to die than white women. As a whole, the country's rate of pregnancy-related deaths is much higher than other developed countries. Lockley said patients planning to get pregnant regularly told her they were scared of racism in the healthcare system.  

OB-GYN Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, VP of Health Care Delivery System Reform at the Commonwealth Fund, said reducing places of care in communities with vulnerable populations could lead to more maternal complications and death, and could "be devastating for pregnant and birthing people and their families."

"Community health centers are places that we need to invest in — not just keep the lights on — we have to truly invest in them," she said.