Federal Way Public Health clinic faces closure, layoffs

The Public Health clinic in Federal Way.  - Courtesy of Public Health
The Public Health clinic in Federal Way.
— image credit: Courtesy of Public Health

The Public Health clinic in Federal Way is one of four clinics that could close as Public Health-Seattle & King County faces a $15 million shortfall per year for the next two years.

“We’ve run out of rabbits we can pull from our hat,” said David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health. “To operate with a balanced budget, we may be compelled to reduce staffing and services.”

The agency’s biggest budget challenge is with its Public Health centers, where expenses have outpaced revenue. This has created an approximately $10 million annual gap in both 2015 and 2016, according to the agency’s website.

As a result, much of the agency’s cuts will occur at the centers. Public Health proposes to close four of its 10 public health clinics: Federal Way, Auburn, Northshore in Bothell and Greenbridge in White Center.

The Federal Way clinic at 33431 13th Place S. serves more than 13,000 clients per year and employs 38 total staff, said Keith Seinfeld, Public Health public information officer.

The local clinic offers family planning services and reproductive health care that includes HIV and STD screening and pregnancy tests; maternity support services and maternity screening; and a teen clinic that provides education and services for pregnancy prevention and for pregnant, parenting and at-risk teens. The Federal Way clinic is also a site for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. The federal program offers healthy food and nutrition information to low-income pregnant women and children five years old and younger.

Seinfeld noted maternity support services account for most of the visits at the Federal Way clinic, as well as other Public Health clinics.

Financial support for Public Health has declined over the years, as voters repealed the agency’s major funding source 14 years ago. A voter-approved cap on property taxes also restricted the remaining source of local spending.

Now, however, reductions to federal payments for administering Medicaid and other cuts have pushed the agency past a tipping point.

Public Health’s budget proposals will be forwarded to the King County executive, who will work to preserve the most essential services county-wide.

The King County Council will adopt a final budget in November.

In the meantime, all services will be maintained at the Public Health centers during the budgeting process.

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