San Francisco Health Commissioner Cecilia Chung speaks at the launch of an API Wellness campaign for expanded health care services in the Tenderloin neighborhood Tuesday, October 11, 2016. (Dan Chambers/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Bus-shelter campaign pushes health care for low-income SF residents

A San Francisco-based community health center has launched a bus-shelter campaign to advertise its health care services for area residents regardless of their ability to pay.

API Wellness became a federally-qualified community health center in fall of 2015 and was more recently approved to accept Medi-Cal and Medicare patients. Health care services were provisionally launched in 2011.

The health care center, located at 726 Polk St., has three clinical exam rooms, four counseling suites, a community art therapy studio and client art gallery. In 2017, the facility will be open five days a week with seven full-time staff members where an expected 4,000 patients will be served with culturally-competent services.

In 2015, of 3,000 clients served, 36 percent were identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual and an additional 34 percent identified as transgender. Seventy-four percent were people of color.

The new advertisements will be placed in Tenderloin bus shelters to get maximum visibility among area residents and others who commute through the area. The bus campaign is expected to run through December.

“When we look at the different districts, the Tenderloin and [South of Market] districts are where underserved residents are,” said Health Commissioner Cecilia Chung. “Because community health is our number one priority of the city of San Francisco and Department of Public Health, we are really thrilled to see API become a federally-qualified center to meet the needs in the neighborhoods.”

API CEO Lance Toma noted that often many residents have no health care and, as a last resort, use San Francisco General and St. Francis hospitals’ emergency rooms for acute care.

“Even though there is a high concentration of health care providers in these areas, there is still a level of need that is unacceptable,” Toma said in an email to the San Francisco Examiner.

API started in 1987 as a grassroots response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the Asian and Pacific Island communities. It has since broadened its mission to serve the Tenderloin and Civic Center neighborhoods as a community health care center offering counseling, therapy, case management and other community services.

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