Seven patients are gathered around a conference room table at Neighborcare Health at Pike Place Market (aka the Clinic). They are all slurping soup and gazing at Brianna, who is sitting at the head of the table. Brianna is telling them about one of her rougher mornings. She got up to brush her teeth but when she glanced in the mirror she said, “Oh my gosh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that someone else was in here!” Everyone at the table howls with laughter. They are all here, in this cozy conference room, for the same reason – to find community and camaraderie around their chronic illness: diabetes.
Brianna has been coming to the medical Clinic in the Market for 15 years now and it was her diabetes that brought her in for the first time. Before visiting the Clinic she had been struggling with her disease and even ended up in the hospital. But once she started seeing doctors at the Clinic and attending support groups she realized she had to be the one to do the work. And boy did she! Today she is managing her diabetes, largely using diet, and is off insulin completely.
You might have caught on at this point that the Clinic is not your average doctor’s office and it comes with some legendary Market history too. It all started in 1978 in the back of the Motherlode Tavern, alongside the Pike Market Senior Center. With $500 and a team of volunteers, the community scrubbed away 40 years of beer and cigarette smoke to open up two exam rooms and the Clinic’s lab. It was a grassroots Clinic that mainly saw elderly, low income patients in the downtown core. One year later they completed construction of a medical facility in the Market and by 2005 the Pike Market Clinic joined the Neighborcare Health family, the largest provider of primary health care for low-income and vulnerable patients in Seattle! Unlike many private groups they will gladly accept Medicare, Medicaid and Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care plans, as well as uninsured patients. No one is turned away due to inability to pay. This allows their patients a quality of care to help keep them out of the emergency room.
Maggie, a physician and the Clinic’s medical director, points out that the work they do at Neighborcare Health at the Pike Place Market Clinic isn’t always your cut-and-dry doctors’ visits. Many of their patients, especially those who are low income and homeless, haven’t had the money or time to develop basic life skills like healthy cooking. One of the opportunities the clinic offers beyond primary health care is cooking classes! Patients come and learn how to work with produce they may have never had in their own kitchen and together they cook a meal. At the end of the class they take home a bag of Market fresh fruits and vegetables in order to recreate the meal in their own home. But they leave with so much more than just food. The class helps them build relationships, meet other people who are dealing with the same diseases and illnesses, and build community. Maggie admits, “This does more for their health than any prescription I will ever write them.”
The bottom line is the Clinic isn’t just interested in what is ailing their patients – they care about their whole being. Part of creating a healthy person is creating a healthy community for them to thrive in. Maggie summed up their multifaceted efforts beautifully when she described their methods as “the essence of community.”
That doesn’t always mean things are easy for their community. The last couple of years have been a health care roller coaster and with attempts to repeal the ACA circulating on the news many of their patients have been overwhelmed with the fear of losing their health insurance. Ever the community advocates and determined to put their clients first Neighborcare developed a resolute mantra, “We have been here for 50 years, we will be here for another 50 years.” Despite the possible hardships that lie ahead they are determined to continue creating community that supports the health of their clients.
Pike Place Market Foundation is a very proud supporter of Neighborcare Health at the Pike Place Market Clinic. Last year we granted $315,000 to support the uncompensated cost of care for more than 28,000 visits by the clinic’s 5,150 patients. Since 1984, we’ve donated more than $5 million to support the health and wellness of our downtown residents by sustaining these vital services.
“What is critical about The Market Foundation’s support is the security that it provides our Clinic, particularly in times like the present that are uncertain,” said Joseph Sparacio, Chief Development Officer at Neighborcare Health. “The Market Foundation has been a rock for us and we are extremely grateful for its longstanding partnership. I don’t know of another foundation in the entire state that has given more over time to support community health.”
We couldn’t make this incredible impact without your generous donations and longstanding commitment to the Market community. Your donations help foster a thriving community of care – which impacts our downtown neighborhood on every level. Congratulations to Neighborcare on 50 years of caring! We can’t wait to see what the next 50 hold.
If you would like to help the Pike Place Market Foundation continue to support the Pike Market Clinic click here.