Reflections on Lost Opportunities at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic: Lessons for Progressive Non-Profit Organizations
AbstractDiscussions about healthcare policy frequently include the contention that, “Healthcare is a right not a privilege.” However, relatively few people know that phrase was made popular by the Free Clinic movement during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The Haight Ashbury Free Clinic (HAFC) in San Francisco was the flagship of the Free Clinic movement and has provided medical, addiction, and housing services to low income individuals for over 35 years. Rapidly after its inception in 1967, the clinic achieved notoriety for its innovative services to the community, particularly to those most in need. However, during the last decade the agency has suffered from severe financial problems, disorganization, and plummeting staff morale. News media reports during the past two years have described charges of embezzlement, lawsuits, counter lawsuits, and a flood of dedicated, skilled, and committed staff leaving in disgust. This paper presents an analysis of the decline of the HAFC, including key issues that were never adequately addressed and lost opportunities for promoting progressive healthcare. The paper closes with suggestions for other progressive non-profit organizations, which include increased efforts to garner public support for progressive healthcare and strategies for adapting to changing organizational and environmental circumstances.
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