Community Clinics

Over the last few days I've learned some exciting new facts about scabies. Shall I share?

scabies mite.jpg
The Scabies Mite: as ugly as it is unpleasant

1) The first and most exciting fact I've learned about scabies is that I DO NOT HAVE IT. It took two visits to my friend the PA who works in an STD clinic, a phone call to the craigslist date who could have given it to me, and finally, my own admission that I don't actually have scabies symptoms to convince me, but I'm now sure that I do not have a communicable disease, at least not one involving tiny mites that cause uncontrolled itching by shitting underneath the skin.

2) If I did have scabies, or any other disease for that matter, I would be 100% reliant on my saint-like friend the PA who works in an STD clinic to care for me because actually, as it turns out, having no health insurance and living in the East Bay = having almost no medical care at all. I called three or four local low-income clinics and they all told me that they only do intake for new patients ONCE A MONTH. So in other words, keep scratching for a couple weeks until we can see you. The exception is the Berkeley Free Clinic, but their hours are limited as is the range of care available there.

3) Even if they take forever to see you, the folks who run the Bay Area's community clinics still rock. I spent 15 or 20 minutes on the phone with a nice gentleman at the Free Clinic who failed to scream and hang up when I said I thought I had a social disease and then shared his recommendation for best East Bay community health clinic (LifeLong Medical Care). The person answering the phone at Lyon-Martin was also patient and kind even as she was telling me that their next appointment for new patients wasn't until January 18th.

I'm a former radical health care provider and I've got a very big and very special spot in my heart for community health care of all types. The Bay Area is home to a number of community clinics that grew out of a part of late-60s history where folks believed that health care was a basic human right and also that people could and should control their own care. If I ever get my shit together to write a book about Bay Area history, it'll be about the history of the Bay Area community health movement, but its going to take a lot of research because I don't know much beyond the skeleton. I can tell you about a few of the local community clinics though.

La Clinica de la Raza was founded in 1971 by Chicano students and doctors and community folks to provide community-based care in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. Now that La Clinica is one of the largest non-profits in the East Bay, it doesn't quite have the homemade community feel that started things off. On the other hand, they now provide health care for thousands of uninsured folks from South East Asia, all over Latin America, and all over East Oakland. Similarly, the Native American Health Center started in '72 when Indian activists and allies, post-Alcatraz occupation, called for a self-directed clinic for Native folks.

The way I heard the story of the Berkeley Free Clinic was that it was founded during the People's Park Riot by medic veterans of the Vietnam War. I can't recall the details of that story so I'll have to go with the vague history they have up on their site.


The BFC is especially close to my radical health care heart because they primarily use lay medical workers – non-professionals who undergo a rigorous in-house training program. A trip to the BFC often involves a discussion with the staff medic in front of an open medical textbook, with both of you trying to figure out what's bugging you.

The Haight Ashbury Free Clinic is the most famous of our clinics. As I understand it, they were among the first medical clinics to treat drug addicts like human beings, and they still specialize in treating addiction and caring for addicts. I liked this free-association piece about their history from David Smith, the clinic founder.

Thanks clinics. I'm going to celebrate my lack of scabies by signing up to become a patient somewheres.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this -- super helpful to know know, and for me, right on time.

Glad also to know you're scabieless. But, uh, any idea what's going on if it's not that?

Be well.

- Julie

Larry Cebula said...


I would send a card but Hallmark doesn't seem to have anything quite to the point.

Bay Radical said...

Julie - I hope you never have to utilize the services of these wonderful clinics!

and Larry - Thanks! Yes, Hallmark is oddly lacking in this department. And also, thanks again for those newspaper links on your blog. I have a feeling I'll be spending many hours digging through those.

Letteuce said...

Ah Fifi-
Never, ever, in all my years of living have I been refered to as saint-like. For that I am forever indebted and will happily endure all your communicable disease scares with grace.

Anonymous said...

Hi Fi,
I'm procrastinating by catching up on your blog and wanted to add my 2 cents about other free clinics. In SF, there's also the Women's Community Clinic (formerly the Women's Needs Center) on Hayes Street, where my uterus-logo hoodie sweatshirt hails from. Also, I know there used to be a clinic in Oakland called A Woman's Place that was either free or low-income, but I'm not sure if it still exists. Don't know if either one deals with scabies though, thankfully, you are not in need of this service.

miss you--

Bay Radical said...

Joh, if I'm helping someone procrastinate, I'm doing something right! And you are so right about the women's clinics. They really deserve their own post. Something about the notorious yoghurt lawsuit maybe.

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