A community health provider that’s too big — and vital — to fail

December 14, 2021

Originally published on Capital & Main – December 14, 2021


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At its inception more than 50 years ago, the Venice Family Clinic was little more than an idea and an after-hours storefront. The notion was simple: Plenty of people on the Westside of Los Angeles were struggling to get by, and some of them either couldn’t afford to see a doctor, didn’t know where to start or avoided the health care system altogether — sometimes because of fears related to their immigration status.

That storefront, a converted dental office, got busy in a hurry. Eventually, the clinic model expanded, funding grew and the model multiplied again. Now, amid a pandemic nearing the two-year mark, the Venice Family Clinic is poised to reach more patients — some 45,000 in 2021 — than at any other point in its history. After a recent merger with South Bay Family Health Care, the system comprises 17 brick-and-mortar locations, plus ever-expanding mobile services.

That’s the good news and the bad. The clinic’s ability to survive and thrive is absolutely something to celebrate. But the need for the Venice Clinic’s services — to the poor, the homeless, the uninsured and the largely invisible — is growing exponentially. It has become a game of catch-up in which it’s nearly impossible to win.

“Our growth reflects the tremendous need that has always been in Los Angeles County,” says Elizabeth Benson Forer, CEO and executive director of the Venice Family Clinic. “There is a huge issue across our country — but especially in Los Angeles County and in California — with health care and health care infrastructure, especially for people with low incomes and very low incomes.”

In this episode of Capital & Main’s weeklong podcast series The Crossing, we discuss with Forer the underpinnings of that need — and the dramatic growth of the community clinic system that works on the front lines to meet it.