The Wohlford Family Clinic Caters to a Diverse Population at Good Sam

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For 14 years the Wohlford Family Clinic, located within the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center on Potrero Avenue, has been offering San Franciscans reproductive health services, provided in a friendly environment.  According to Jacquelyn Marcoux-Mansfield, the Clinic’s director, staff at this satellite site of Planned Parenthood Northern California believe that “it’s very important to serve the community. Our mission is to provide great care to clients who need reproductive health care.”

The Clinic is open Wednesday and Friday, with appointments available from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Three medical providers serve roughly 16 clients a day, or about 130 a month, a little more than 1,500 a year.  “We’re able to sometimes see people the same day, the same week that they call in. That’s a great benefit to them, to get treatment quickly. We offer a full range of contraceptive services: the pill, the patch, the ring, two kinds of IUDs, implants, and condoms. We do treatment for sexually transmitted infections for men and women  including HIV tests – pap smears, and breast exams for cancer screenings,” said Marcoux-Mansfield. 

The Clinic also offers pregnancy tests and general gynecological health appointments. It doesn’t provide abortion services.  “We have at least one person who is Spanish-speaking on staff, and phone translation services if we have a client who speaks another language. It’s diverse, like San Francisco,” Marcoux-Mansfield said.

Alicia Vazquez, director of programs at Good Sam, said people of Asian descent, who sometimes live miles away, also come to the Center. According to Vazquez, even though the Center doesn’t have bilingual Asian language speakers, people feel comfortable coming to a facility where staff are used to communicating in languages other than English. 

Vazquez thinks one reason the Clinic is successful is that “it doesn’t look like a clinic. There’s nothing outside that says it is. Young people don’t feel like they’ll run into a friend or family member here.”

“We were approached by the Mary Wohlford Foundation in 2000 to see if we’d be interested in opening a family planning clinic in our organization,” said Vazquez. “We did a community needs study to see if there was a need, and we found that there was, especially for young people.”  At the time, Vazquez said, men and women under the age of 25 lacked clinics that were close by, affordable, and had bilingual staff.  “In 2001, we opened a clinic with Planned Parenthood. It’s had great success,” said Vazquez.

According to Vazquez, despite concerns that Mission and Mishpot residents would oppose offering reproductive health services, because many community members are affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, the Clinic’s presence at the Center has consistently been supported. “The religious aspect was much less of an obstacle that we initially anticipated,” she said. “At first we weren’t sure it would be welcomed by our participants. We interviewed our target population, and were astounded by the interest.” 

Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific operated the Clinic from 2001 to 2005. In 2005 Planned Parenthood Golden Gate (PPGG) took over management. In 2010 Planned Parenthood Golden Gate was stripped of its affiliation by the national organization, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. PPGG had failed to meet administrative and fiscal management standards. Since 2010 Planned Parenthood Northern California has operated the Clinic.  

“It’s been an excellent partnership,” said Heather Saunders Estes, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Northern California. “The Center donates the space and a receptionist and Planned Parenthood is there to provide services. Neither of us could do our part without the support of the Mary Wohlford Foundation and donors.” 

The Mary Wohlford Foundation was founded in 1999 by Mary Wohlford, a Bay Area reproductive rights activist. That year Wohlford died of breast cancer, and asked her friend, Mardi Kildebeck, to be the trustee of her estate. The Foundation funds nonprofits that promote reproductive health, education, and justice. Since it began granting money in 2002, it has given away an average of $1 million annually. 

The Clinic operates with funding from Planned Parenthood Northern California, with an annual health services budget of about $200,000, according to Marcoux-Mansfield. The Clinic has a separate budget for community services and education. 

The nonprofit Good Samaritan Family Resource Center receives funds from the Wohlford Foundation, as well as other sources, such as Sheana Butler, Wohlford’s sister and a former Center board member. Vazquez said the Center is in danger of closing due to a lack of funds.  “To keep the doors open, pay the utilities, and have a receptionist and janitorial staff costs about $30,000 a year. That doesn’t include outreach and making materials,” said Vazquez.

Saunders Estes said Planned Parenthood Northern California is committed to keeping services at the Center. “There’s no question we need support from community donors. Both organizations are supported through a patchwork of funding. We are only there 16 hours a week. It would be fabulous to have other be there as well,” she said.

The Center grew out of a settlement house, an inner city facility that provides educational, recreational, and social services. The Center was initially run by the Episcopal Church, and went by the name the “San Francisco Good Samaritan Mission.” It was founded in 1894. In 1989 Good Samaritan’s building was damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake. The facility was reconstructed as a modern center that includes low-income family housing units. It reopened in 1995. 

Vazquez, who joined the staff in 2003, said the Center works closely with a number of churches, and houses one that offers Sunday services. She said most Center visitors are from Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Colombia, and the Mexican states of Michoacan and Jalisco. “When I started work here, [the people] were primarily from El Salvador and Nicaragua.”

According to Vazquez, in the early-2000s many of those who came to the Center qualified for refugee status or government aid. Now these options are mostly unavailable.  “We’ve been working with immigrants for over 125 years. Ninety percent of the people that we help have come to this country to escape something: violence, poverty, domestic abuse, natural disasters, and war.” 

Many Center clients “are here without appropriate documentation to work or receive government services. Our staff is able to meet them where they are,” she said. “We are able to develop a network of support and community. A lot of people tell us that before they came here, they were completely isolated. Coming here is what changed all that.” 

Marcoux-Mansfield spends roughly 20 hours a week at the San Francisco Health Center, a Planned Parenthood Northern California office located on Valencia Street. This larger facility is open six days a week. Yet it doesn’t take the place of the Clinic in the Center.  “What being at” Good Sam “has taught me is the value is the partnership,” said Marcoux-Mansfield. “We’re partnering and working well together, and that’s important.”