July 26, 2011
An Open Letter to the Lyon-Martin Health Services Community
From: Marj Plumb, DrPH, Current Board Chair
This is my update to those of you who have expressed concern and support to Lyon-Martin Health Services. Many, many thanks to you all.
As you may know, Lyon-Martin’s board of directors had planned to immediately close the clinic in January of 2011 as they noted the clinic had accrued over one million dollars of debt (including unpaid payroll taxes). Mostly through the ingenious creativity and hard-work of a self-organized group of community activists and patients, calling themselves “Save Lyon-Martin”, an outpouring of community support led to $350,000 in donations in three months. While these funds have been vital, they are just the beginning steps along a lengthier path to sustainability.
Where we are now
On March 23, 2011 I became the first new board member after the announcement of the significant debt; at that meeting I was also elected Board Chair. Since that time the staff and Board and I have focused on the complex task of assessing a damaged clinic, and trying to rebuild it. At the same time we continue to serve clients without interruption.
All of the board members who were in office during the accrual of debt have resigned. This is significant. It allows us to rebuild the board with new energy. As a Federally Qualified Health Center we are required to have nine board members, with up to half being clients. In addition to myself, we have four new board members: Pike Long, Cheryl Simas, Melyssa Mendoza, and Kate Sorensen. We are looking for at least 4 additional new board members and we would appreciate your guidance with nominations.
We are most fortunate to have the dedicated leadership of Dawn Harbatkin, MD, who has served as Medical Director since 2006. Dawn recently agreed to shoulder the responsibilities of the Interim Executive Director position during our transition. Most importantly, and to the credit of Dawn and all the LHMS healthcare providers, the quality of patient care has never been in question. However, from January to May, as the previous board considered the future of the clinic, staff positions were left vacant and the remaining staff had to double their workloads. All the remaining staff, volunteers, the Director of Operations Elizabeth Sekera, RN, and Dawn deserve our deepest gratitude for their tireless service. Please keep an eye on the LMHS website for job postings throughout the rebuilding process and pass this information along to your friends and colleagues.
Since 1982, LMHS has been a proud founding member of the San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium (SFCCC). We are responsible to SFCCC for meeting certain federal requirements for community clinics. The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) also plays a role in overseeing healthcare services provided by clinics such as ours.
In recognition of the essential services offered at Lyon-Martin and our ability to provide a “medical home” for patients who would otherwise not have one, both the SFCCC and SFDPH have, since the crisis was announced, given hundreds of hours of compassionate oversight to our clinic to ensure that we move forward and continue to serve our patients. While we still have to meet many requirements in order to re-establish the clinic in good standing, we are working diligently to meet those requirements with the continued guidance of both the SFCCC and SFDPH.
In addition, the community group, Save Lyon-Martin, is more then just an exceptional fundraising group. Their Business Development Committee has been meeting with Lyon-Martin staff to conduct a thorough review of all clinic administrative and patient care systems to identify and address any deficiencies.
Although Lyon-Martin has never received so much money from donations so quickly (the first quarter achievement of $350K!!!), we still face a dire need. As you can imagine, the financial cost of rebuilding the clinic is itself a tremendous strain. Added to that is the fact that there are no cash reserves. This is THE challenge as we face the repayment of debt in the next couple of months.
We have completed a Financial Recovery Plan and Cash Flow Analysis that will only be actualized if the level of support generated from the first months of 2011 can be repeated by the end of 2011. We are rebuilding as prudently and cautiously as possible, but you do have to spend money to run a clinic!
Fundraising goal: $350,000 by December 31, 2011
Raising another $350,000 by the end of 2011 is a tall order, and it’s one that we simply must achieve. I’ll never forget a fundraising workshop from a couple of decades ago when the trainer said, “No one wants to give the ‘last’ donation to an organization.” That phrase has haunted me since taking over board leadership three months ago. Can I promise you that we will not close after you give or give again? No, I cannot. So I will ask you what I’ve asked myself: can I live with myself if I don’t try?
I can assure you that never in my 30 years of working in the nonprofit sector have I collaborated with such a committed, smart, hard working and compassionate group of people. If the clinic can be saved, it will be because of them…and you.
We are planning several fundraising campaigns for the fourth quarter of 2011 and will be back in touch with you as our plans develop. You can expect my email, letter, or call and I hope that you dig deep and contribute a “stretch” gift for Lyon-Martin Health Services and the clients we serve. Your donation will keep the clinic open and honor the community members, as well as the staff, who have been doing the impossible since the beginning of the year.
If you would like to make a gift but cannot participate in any of our activities, please visit our website: www.lyon-martin.org.
So why, might you ask, are we doing this?
Lyon-Martin Health Services (LMHS) has a 30-year history of providing culturally competent healthcare in a sensitive and caring environment. As you know, Lyon-Martin began as the only clinic in the world specifically caring for lesbians. The clinic has evolved to now serve a unique blend of 2500 underserved women, lesbians, and transgender patients. It is a nationally recognized model for serving our communities and is a sought after training site for healthcare professionals; and true to our historical beginnings, it is a clinic of last resort for patients who don’t “fit” anywhere else. This isn’t a question of “maybe we don’t need the clinic anymore”;
it’s a question of “how could we let a unique clinic, with such a significant place in our history, that is addressing such a compelling patient population, be lost.”
We ask you to consider Lyon-Martin as the embodiment of core feminist values: creating a just and equitable world. We deliver the highest quality healthcare to the most marginalized within our community.
Please join us as we work to preserve this unique medical home. I will continue to keep you informed with our progress. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about Lyon-Martin Health Services. I’m always available at marj [at] marjplumb.com or 510-928-1959.
With many thanks for your past support…and in hopes of our future together,
Chair, Board of Directors
Lyon Martin Health Services