Haight Ashbury Free Clinic: Health Care a Right since Summer of

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 15 Jun 1999 22:34:38 -0700 (PDT)

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FWD  San Francisco Chronicle - Tuesday, June 8, 1999 - Page A21


     Joe Elson

PAINFULLY LITTLE has changed in our nation's approach to health care
during the past 32 years since the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic opened
its doors. We are needed now more than ever.

  Today, more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance and
that number is increasing. There is no national plan to address the
multitude who wake up each day hoping that they do not need to see a

  Drug abuse remains a national epidemic and the lack of a
comprehensive rational health policy on the subject of drug addiction
remains a national embarrassment.

Locally, despite the efforts of San Francisco's Department of Public
Health, as well as a consortium of private community clinics, the
city's 150,000 uninsured citizens are struggling to get adequate
care. San Francisco General Hospital recently closed a major
pharmacy, limiting thousands of indigent patients' ability to receive
needed medicine. Although the new infection rate of HIV has
decreased, the number of persons living with AIDS has dramatically
increased. Hepatitis C, a chronic progressive liver disease, is found
in 99 out of 100 of San Francisco's needle-using drug addicts.

The recent overdose and death of Boz Scaggs' son Oscar has shed light
on the rising tide of heroin addiction of San Francisco's youth.
``Treatment on demand,'' while a noble concept, is far from being
realized, as openings in drug treatment programs are very limited and
difficult to come by.

The Haight Ashbury Free Clinic has been serving the substance-abusing
and medically disenfranchised population of San Francisco since June
7, 1967. What began as a drop-in, all-volunteer clinic geared toward
treating young hippies during the Summer of Love is now a
full-service professional organization with a paid staff of 250.
Today, the clinic treats a diverse group of patients with a wide
range of health concerns, although our focus continues to be the same
--``health care is a right, not a privilege.''

Last year, we treated more than 24,000 patients at our various sites.
Our clinic, first opened by Dr. David Smith in a second-
story Victorian flat on Haight Street, now has more than 20 locations
providing many types of desperately needed services. Our services now
include pediatric care,
comprehensive HIV care, out-patient drug detoxification services,
residential drug treatment, women's health services, pharmacological
research and education, Rock Med (which provides a medical presence
at rock concerts), jail psychiatric services, as well as complete
primary medical care.

These services are all free at the point of delivery and are
comprehensive, demystified and humane. We are not an HMO, or a
managed-care facility, and we do not accept private insurance. Our
medical decisions are always made in the best interest of the
patients. Our services are all free, not only of cost but also free
of judgment.

As the new millennium approaches, the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic
continues its commitment to providing primary and specialty care to
the uninsured and under-
served in our community. Our commitment is as strong today as it was
32 years ago, because health care is a right, not a privilege.

Joseph Elson, M.D., is a family practitioner and assistant clinical
professor of family and community medicine at UCSF. He has been the
director of the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic since 1990.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material
is distributed without charge or profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information
for non-profit research and educational purposes only.**

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