JUNEAU (AP) Juneau's homeless population now has its own clinic, offering medical and dental care.
The Front Street Clinic, which opened Monday, was launched with a $438,000 grant from the federal Bureau of Primary Health Care. The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Care Consortium will oversee the grant.
''This is open to anybody that's homeless or anybody that's in the first 12 months of transitional housing, including kids and teenagers,'' said clinic manager Lee Ann See.
Jetta Whittaker, director of Juneau's only homeless shelter and soup kitchen, said the clinic was a long-awaited service for the indigent.
''We're so excited,'' she said. ''It will serve our entire population as a gateway to further services.''
It's difficult to accurately gauge the number of homeless in the city, Whittaker said. But the 38-bed shelter is full most of the year, and the kitchen provides about 90 dinners daily, she said.
''I know a lot of folks choose not to come here, so there easily could be double or triple the need out there for basic care,'' Whittaker said.
Van Roper, a nurse practitioner who has worked with homeless patients in Atlanta, and most recently in Oregon, will serve as the clinic's primary caregiver. He hopes the clinic will fill a niche in Juneau's social services community.
''Juneau has a really good system of support available here for people that are in homeless and low economic situations,'' Roper told the Juneau Empire. ''It doesn't look like there's necessarily a hub that pulls all of that together. I kind of picture us as kind of being that hub.''
As a nurse practitioner, Roper can prescribe many medicines, although he probably will prescribe only antibiotics and other low-level prescriptions, not painkillers, he said.
A third employee, a receptionist, will staff the clinic. A dental staff, including a dentist who will work one day per week and a dental hygienist who will work two days per week, will be hired by the end of September. See estimates the annual expenses for the clinic will run about $320,000. The money will be provided by future federal grants.
The clinic has received many in-kind donations of time and supplies from local individuals, businesses and organizations, Roper and See said.
The clinic will be open Mondays through Saturdays, but the staff has not set a final schedule for hours.
''We're going to open the doors and see who shows up and then we'll try to adjust the system to meet the community needs,'' Roper said.
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