Portland councilor seeks to extend India Street clinic services

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PORTLAND — City councilors will vote May 16 on the $236 million municipal budget, with at least one more tweak to the plan for shifting public health care services.

At a council workshop Monday, Councilor Belinda Ray said she wants to keep the city needle exchange and screening and treatment services for HIV, AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases at the India Street Public Health Center “for the foreseeable future.”

Ray said she plans to make a motion to that effect, which will be noted before a public hearing preceding the council vote. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. May 16.

The indefinite extension goes beyond the motion to extend the services at the India Street location to no later than June 30, 2017.  City Manager Jon Jennings’ budget would shift all other city-funded India Street services to the Portland Community Health Center by Dec. 31.

No public comment was taken at Monday’s workshop. Leslie Clark, chief executive of the PCHC; India Street Director of Programs Dr. Caroline Teschke; city Health and Human Services Director Dawn Stiles, and city Finance Director Brendan O’Connell answered councilors’ questions about the shift.

“What it does for the city is, it opens up access for more people and more investment from the federal government,” Clark said, because of increased federal reimbursements for patient visits.

Clark also confirmed PCHC has received a $498,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand the offices at 63 Preble St. The nonprofit operates five offices in the city and South Portland, and had planned to move the needle exchange to 63 Preble St.

Shifting the HIV, AIDS, STD and needle exchange has been criticized by patients and volunteers who worry about the loss of specialists and confidentiality. Clark has said PCHC would consider hiring all India Street staff, and is in a good position to apply for the federal Ryan White grant that funds India Street HIV services, if needed.

“Portland Community Health Center has been awarded every single grant we applied for,” she said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Councilor Belinda Ray wants to keep HIV and STD services and the city needle exchange at the India Street Public Health Center “for the foreseeable future.”

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.