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Clinic is troubled by budget

A proposal to drastically reduce state spending on medical aid for the poor means the Laguna Beach Community Clinic could be closing its doors to new patients.

Dr. Thomas Bent, medical director at the clinic, said new patient admissions will be threatened when the current clinic reserve funds run out. And this is happening when more people need the clinic due to difficult economic times.

“We need additional [aid] from the community to make up for the shortfall by the state,” he said. “Otherwise, our current programs will be threatened and we may not be able to accept any new patients.”

The mission of the clinic since its inception in 1970 is to provide medical care for all individuals in South Orange County, regardless of their ability to pay.


Services include general medical care, dental, prenatal and postpartum, teen care and counseling programs.

The clinic also administers anonymous HIV and STD testing and provides education services for healthy and safe practices.

With now more than 5,000 patients and 17,000 visits overall per year, it requires a $2.5 million budget to operate the clinic each year.

Only $15,000 of that is provided by the city.


“We could really use the city’s help,” Bent said. “It’s important that we reach out and care for the people of this community.”

As president of the California Academy of Family Physicians, Bent has a concern about health care that reaches beyond the community, statewide.

He thinks that radical reduction of health and human services by the state in order to close a $24.3-billion budget deficit is a “short-sighted” tactic.

“The long-term outcome will be an overall increase in health care costs and, more importantly, an increase in illness and suffering,” he said.

“Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposal to eliminate the Healthy Families program, for example, would leave nearly a million children uninsured statewide.

“The public’s rejection of the ballot initiatives is not a mandate to decimate state-funded health and human services — there are other ways to balance the budget.”

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