American Indian Health & Services, perhaps Santa Barbara’s least-known health clinic, is hoping to take over the Army Reserve Center adjoining MacKenzie Park. When the Department of Defense declared the long-unused building surplus property in May, the Department of Health & Human Services announced it wanted to acquire the 2.5 acres for the clinic, which has operated since 1994 out of a sprawling network of offices in El Mercado shopping center on the 4100 block of State Street.
The health center currently serves 7,000 patients annually, of which about 15 percent are Native Americans, and it meets the federal standards for a qualified health center that the government is obligated to provide for urban-dwelling Native Americans. It offers primary, dental, behavioral wellness, and pediatric care to clients who make 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level.
Brent Baldwin, attorney for the center, said the new digs would allow for the creation of a special pediatric area with its own waiting room and more space for its large dental program. Each department has at least one Native American on staff to ensure culturally competent care. There is no connection, however, with the Chumash tribe that operates a clinic in the Santa Ynez Valley.
The old Army Reserve Center was once part of a medical campus built on the eve of World War II. “As far as land-use issues in Santa Barbara, I can imagine few better than bringing a health-care clinic back to the site of a former hospital,” said Baldwin, who also noted that one of every five patients using the American Indian offices is a drop-in customer. “I know we keep people from Cottage’s ER,” he said.
Other possible contenders for the property are the City of Santa Barbara, to expand MacKenzie Park, and the Housing Authority, for affordable housing. Before any decision can be made, however, the federal General Services Administration has to determine a sale price. Then negotiations can begin.
Editor’s Note: The photo originally at this story was removed on September 28, 2017, as it showed the former National Guard Armory and not the Army Reserve building.