On Thursday, January 19, Mayor Muriel Bowser hosted a community input budget forum at Wilson High School in Northwest D.C. to hear what locals want to keep or cut from the 2016 budget.
“All of us are budget makers. I make a budget for this city and you make budgets every month, some of you make budgets every day,” Bowser said to the crowd.
This forum is one of three input meetings that Bowser plans to have with the public before the final draft budget is due April 2. Bowser’s Communication Director, Michael Czin, told Street Sense that the Mayor and her staff hope to prioritize funding in order to close a quarter million dollar budget gap.
The meeting included discussions on a wide variety of issues, including education, public safety, libraries and services for citizens in poverty or in need, which is what drew Community of Hope CEO and President, Kelly Sweeney McShane, to the forum.
Community of Hope is a non-profit organization that provides low-income families in D.C. with health care, housing and other programs to ensure quality of lives.
The organization runs three community health centers throughout the city. However, Community of Hope’s Marie Reed Health Center, located in Ward 1 for the past 35 years, may have to be shut down due to lack of funds, according to Sweeney McShane.
The Marie Reed Learning Center, the building where Community of Hope’s health center is located, is undergoing major renovations, but Community of Hope has yet to receive funds for the renovation project.
Currently, Community of Hope is advocating to keep their location in the Marie Reed Learning Center, as well as double the number of patients they can take on, Sweeney McShane said.
They provide a wide range of services, including prenatal care, pediatric care, chronic disease management, immunization, adult well and sick visits, dental care and other specialty medical procedures.
Surrounding service providers will most likely be unable to take on Community of Hope patients if the Marie Reed Health Center shuts down.
“We have heard from other partners that the surrounding health centers are not likely to have the capacity to absorb our 6,500 (over 2 years) patients,” Sweeney McShane said.
Some Marie Reed Health Center patients are unlikely to travel to another Community of Hope health center across town if the Marie Reed center shuts down.
One patient, Ken Martin, 60, would not commute to Community of Hope’s Southeast health center location because the stress on his body would be too much, he said. He has heart disease and his mobility is severely limited.
“I can’t handle the stress of going back and forth from Southeast each day,” he said. “I have too much on my plate as it is.”
Martin has been a patient at the Community of Hope since before his daughter was born.
“I have been there longer than most of their furniture,” he said.
Many people would stop seeing a doctor altogether instead of traveling to another location if the center closed, he said.
“Too many things [Community of Hope provides] are vital for the health of the community,” he said.
Mayor Bowser is unsure whether or not Community of Hope’s Marie Reed Health Center will receive funding, she said at the budget meeting.
“If the Marie Reed Health Center is not a part of the Marie Reed Learning Center Modernization project, chances of finding another affordable location in Adams Morgan are slim,” Sweeney McShane said.
Community of Hope is currently working with local agencies to find funding for the health center. If they can find funding to expand the center, they expect to double their space to ten thousand square feet and expand their highly demanded dental care.
“I’m sure they’re going to get funded, they are a vital part of the community,” Martin said. “I would be extremely disappointed in Washington, D.C. if they let that place close.”