Health care could be harder to find for transgendered, queer and poor San Franciscans on Thursday, when Castro-area clinic Lyon-Martin Health Services is rumored to close.
Located at 1748 Market Street, the clinic — named for Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, the legendary couple who made LGBTQ rights their lives’ work — boasts of being California’s only free-standing community clinic with a specific emphasis on providing health care to lesbian and bisexual women and transgendered people, which it has done since its founding in 1979. Nearly 90 percent of its 2,500 annual patients were either unemployed or uninsured. Many were both, according to its Web site.
As a private nonprofit, the clinic relies on donors for its fiscal well-being. While not widely-known, there was word of Lyon-Martin’s fiscal trouble before knowledge of an impending closure on Thursday began swirling Tuesday morning, fueled by a post on queer advocate Michael Petrelis’s blog.
Lyon-Martin’s closure — which follows troubles at SF Pride and the LGBT Community Center — is one more blow to SF’s gay community, according to Petrelis. “The fraying of gay inc and service agencies continues in SF and there will be no town hall meetings to discuss the troubles,” he wrote Tuesday. “it is gay inc business as usual.”
Messages for Dr. Dawn Harbatkin, the clinic’s executive director, and Lauren Winter, listed on Lyon-Martin’s Web site as head of the clinic’s Board of Directors, were not immediately returned Tuesday.
Supervisor Scott Wiener, a former president of the Alice B Toklas LGBT Democratic Club who represents the Castro, said he’d heard rumors of a Lyon-Martin closure late Monday “from someone I trust,” he told the Appeal.
Wiener said his calls to Lyon-Martin staff had yet to be returned, but “even the possibility that Lyon-Martin may close is something I’m going to be following,” he said. “It’s a critical resource in the community for transgendered people. We need to do anything we can to avoid its closure.”
For uninsured, low-income people with few health care options, it is hard to see how Lyon-Martin could be replaced. Some 2,500 people visited the clinic in 2009, and many were return patients — there were 7,198 visits to Lyon-Martin altogether in 2009, according to the clinic’s Web site.
Visitors receive health care regardless of ability to pay, the Web site says. “At a time when unemployment and loss of insurance benefits is on the rise,” the clinic boasts, “We continue to provide instrumental services for our communities.”
Said Wiener, “I hope it’s not true. I hope it’s a misunderstanding.”