King County faces property tax hike to save public health clinics from closing

May 16, 2024, 12:56 PM

public heath clinics...

Exterior of Harborview Medical Center, the only county-owned hospital in the state. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

King County Executive Dow Constantine is pursuing a property tax increase throughout the county in order to prevent public health clinics from shuttering.

Constantine is pushing to shift public health clinics and their services to operate under Harborview Medical Center’s supervision, which is also attempting to raise funds. His proposal, which has not been officially unveiled, according to The Seattle Times, would go up for a county council vote.

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If approved, King County’s public health clinics would fall under the same funding received by Harborview Medical Clinic. Harborview is the only county-owned hospital in the state.

Approximately 70,000 people a year get health care, dental care, nutrition aid or personalized services from public health clinics in King County, according to The Seattle Times. But the clinics have been in danger of closing for almost a year because of a $35 million budget cut.

Public health clinics that could be closed are located in Auburn, Seattle, Des Moines, Bellevue, Federal Way, Kent, Burien, Lake City, Renton and Kirkland.

“This network, along with mobile vans, a street medicine team and school-based health centers, ensures healthcare is accessible to as many people as possible,” Save Public Health stated in its petition to keep the medical centers open. “Two-thirds of Public Health clients are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. These communities have historically faced health disparities and systemic barriers to healthcare. Public Health plays a crucial role in bridging these gaps and providing equitable healthcare services.”

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More than 2,000 signatures have been collected for Save Public Health’s petition.

One medical center, a dental clinic in downtown Seattle that sees approximately 50 patients a day, has a clientele made up of 85% homeless people, according to The Seattle Times. Another medical center, a primary care clinic also located in downtown Seattle, stated 30% of its patients are homeless.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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King County faces property tax hike to save public health clinics from closing