Metro Weekly

Changes Ahead

Whitman-Walker joins Washington Free Clinic, ends AIDS Marathon fundraiser

Few clinics offered free services in Washington in 1968, yet that was the year that the Washington Free Clinic credits itself as the first such offering on the East Coast. Five years after opening its doors, that same clinic launched the Gay Men’s Venereal Disease Clinic, which would shortly thereafter become the Whitman-Walker Clinic.

Nearly 30 years after the two organizations began their separate growth, they’ve found themselves back together.

Finding that it was unable to meet the demands of running a free healthcare facility on its own, said Free Clinic spokesperson Gardiner Lapham, it turned to Whitman-Walker for help.

”Our clinic is small Â… and over the past number of years, healthcare systems have gotten administratively burdensome,” Lapham said of the pressures the clinic faced.

Washington Free Clinic will close its doors Thursday, Jan. 18, and resume services at Whitman-Walker Clinic’s Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center, at 1701 14th St. NW, beginning Jan. 29.

”Our patient-base is too small to have the number of staff you now need to administer a clinic,” she added, noting the clinic’s 12-member-staff and 1,800 clientele. ”We see it as joining a force to build and improve [our] primary care medical home.”

In other news, Whitman-Walker Clinic CEO Donald Blanchon announced on Jan. 11 the end of the clinic’s relationship with Walk-the-Talk Productions, the private corporation that has operated the clinic’s National AIDS Marathon Training Program for the past nine years.

The decision to sever ties with the group came as a response to Walk-the-Talk’s failure to modify its contract to meet Whitman-Walker’s requests, which focused on increasing the clinic’s participation in the program while lowering the expenses and providing the clinic with financial protection in case fundraising efforts fall short of contractual projections in the following year.

In a press release, Blanchon cited Walk-the-Talk’s ”high administrative cost-to-fund ratio,” as well as the program’s limitations on Whitman-Walker Clinic branding, as factors in the decision making process.

”Our fundraising approach for 2007 is to offer community events that directly promote Whitman-Walker Clinic and, more important, the needs of the clients we serve,” Blanchon said.

Noting that the clinic ”greatly appreciates the contributions of Walk-the-Talk Productions,” Blanchon said the decision was ”difficult yet prudent.”

”We recognize that runners and supporters may be disappointed by this decision but, in the final analysis, Walk-the-Talk Productions could not accommodate our fundraising objectives in 2007.”