It is with much sadness that I note the possible closure of the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics. I hope that the Neighborhood Clinics survive their current fiscal crisis. If they don’t, it has been quite a run. As the physician credited with founding the Isla Vista Open Door Clinic (now the Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinic), I can say I never imagined this health-care organization would become an institution that so far has lasted for over 42 years.
In the 1969-70 school year, the Bank of America’s local branch was burned down, gaining national attention for Isla Vista, this small, over-developed town that had been neglected by both the county and university. The upheavals caused by the civil disturbances, including mass arrests of Isla Vista residents, led many to develop a deep concern about what could happen to them in their own town.
Those times also sparked a strong sense of community. In the fall of 1970, many hundreds of people pitched in to start several new community organizations, including the Isla Vista Open Door Medical Clinic. The clinic also received early support from the UCSB administration, the Associated Students at UCSB, the Bank of America, the UC Board of Regents, and the local building trade unions.
For over 40 years, the Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinic has been the source of affordable, acceptable, accessible health care for low-income residents of the South Coast and residents of Isla Vista. The Isla Vista Medical Clinic has been a model for UCSB students of humanistic health care, a place to actualize their idealism. This idealism has been carried out into the broader medical community.
Former staff and volunteers at the Isla Vista Open Door Clinic have become doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, university professors, counselors, and health-care administrators. They took what they had seen at the Clinic – the provision of quality, comprehensive, community-oriented, holistic, patient-centered care – and disseminated these lessons into the mainstream health care system.
In the 70s and 80s, the Isla Vista Clinic was on the cutting edge of change in medicine. We had integrated, comprehensive care that included primary care medicine, mental-health care, drug-abuse treatment and prevention, community outreach, and health education. The first nurse midwives on the South Coast worked at the Isla Vista Medical Clinic in conjunction with delivery privileges at Goleta Valley Hospital.
Community involvement and community outreach were cornerstones of the Isla Vista Open Door Medical Clinic. At the recent memorial service for the late David Hoskinson – clinic administrator, 1977-80 and a vice president of Pediatrix, a pediatric medical group covering 13 southeastern states, at the time of his demise – I was struck by the enduring idealism of those who came to celebrate his life. Sadly, in today’s tough financial climate the idealism of the 60s and 70s seems almost like a distant dream.
Today the Neighborhood Clinics continue to provide health care to the medically under-served. They also provide dental care. It has been frequently brought to my attention, as the former medical director of the Santa Barbara Regional Health Authority (now CenCal), how difficult it is for low-income people to find dental care. The health-care services provided by the Westside, Eastside and Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinics and the Neighborhood Clinics Dental Service are a vital part of the South Coast’s social safety net.
While the tie-dyed shirts, the doctors working for $8.00/hour, the large number of volunteers are long gone, the Neighborhood Clinics still fill a critical role in Santa Barbara County in the provision of health care to the medically under-served.
Even though I have not been affiliated with the Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinic for over a decade, I applaud the services it provides and appeal to those idealists amongst us to save the Neighborhood Clinics by stepping forward and making donations, large and small.
The Neighborhood Clinic’s main office address is 1900 State Street, Suite G, Santa Barbara, California, 93101. Thanks for caring.
David Bearman, M.D., was the founding physician of the Isla Vista Open Door Medical Clinic