Mountain View’s Community Health Awareness Council’s clinic services will be halting by the start of August. The mental health services nonprofit, which aims to provide affordable aid for people of all ages, cited a large financial deficit as the main reason for the clinic’s closure.
While it’s not unusual for organizations — especially coming out of the pandemic — to have significant deficits, the clinic’s financial situation became too strained to maintain, Interim Executive Director Anne Ehresman said. CHAC struggled to regain budgetary security, especially as it serves roughly 400 patients annually for low costs.
“For a lot of organizations, their time, energy, intent and attention during the lockdown years … are really spent on ‘How do we keep our doors open?’” Ehresman said. “CHAC, like many others, pivoted during that time.”
CHAC’s other services, which consist of various family resource centers and school-based operations in the area, are staying open despite the clinic’s closure, Ehresman said. School districts fund school-based operations, and youth nonprofit FIRST 5 Santa Clara County funds the resource centers, which is why they remain stable despite CHAC’s financial struggles.
“We’ve retained our school services at a very strong position,” Director of Development and Communication Rakhee Kaushik said. “Students and families are still going to get services through CHAC, so closing the clinic just gives us time and money to rework and rebound.”
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agreed to grant CHAC $1 million in funding as part of its next budget, which was approved at its June 15 budget hearing. CHAC directors need to carefully decide how to use the money, Ehresman said.
“You have money pledged, but where’s it coming from?” Ehresman said. “You need to think about … ‘How do we make some good choices that will leverage this money for longer term sustainability?’”
In the next month, CHAC’s highest priority will be transitioning their current therapy patients to other facilities as the clinic prepares to close, Ehresman and Kaushik said. The clinic is in communication with Palo Alto University’s Gronowski Clinic, which offers a similar “sliding scale” — or lower cost — therapy model, Ehresman said.
Although the Gronowski Clinic can’t necessarily bump down people currently on their waiting list to make room for CHAC patients, they are open to having CHAC transition some patients to them.
“Our focus has been on peacefully and carefully transitioning our current clients either into new therapists or … offboarding our clients,” Kaushik said. “But the next few months are going to be spent on figuring out how we can make our clinic sustainable, because [its closure] has been a shock to the community.”
Once the clinic is officially closed on Aug. 1, CHAC staff will redirect their attention to making the clinic more sustainable, Ehresman said. This includes creating partnerships with other organizations to ensure the stability of CHAC, as well as making CHAC’s clinic eligible for Medi-Cal funding.
While becoming a clinic that accepts Medi-Cal insurance would ensure a renewable and sustainable revenue, it would also drastically shift and limit the clinic’s demographic, according to Ehresman.
“[The clinic] is for folks who earn just a little too much for Medi-Cal and then maybe don’t have private insurance or insurance that covers mental health care,” Ehresman said. “We have provided this niche of support, and there’s not many other similar places in the community.”
Even though there are uncertainties regarding whether CHAC will regain financial stability, the clinic closure gives the organization a chance to “think creatively,” Ehresman said.
“[The closure] gives us a little bit of a runway to retain our key staff who will help us redesign the clinic,” Kaushik said. “Now, we have this little extra time and money to work on resolving this problem so that we never have to go through it again.”