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Despite Relative Wealth of Neighborhood, Lakeview Group Says Free Health Clinic is Needed by Many Residents

One Lakeview neighborhood organization hopes to open a free health care clinic in the North Side neighborhood.

The Lakeview Action Coalition has made the clinics its top priority after conducting a survey in 2007 that indicated a need for primary health care within the community.

But one city health official says the neighborhood doesn’t need a clinic as much as other areas on the South and West Sides, and an aide to the alderman’s office said no public money is available.

Hannah Gelder, spokeswoman for Lakeview Action Coalition, said the goal is to improve access to affordable health care by bringing a community center to the neighborhood.

“The results showed that community members are leaving Lakeview for other neighborhoods to find affordable care,” she said. “The survey clearly showed a need for a clinic in Lakeview, so we are fighting for the residents of Lakeview.”

Max Bevar, spokesman for Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), said the alderman is always in support for services that benefit the residents of Lakeview. But, he said, there will be no city resources put into this project.

“We are always looking for increased and low cost health care for our ward’s most needy residents,” Bevar said. “As far as we know, Lakeview Action Coalition is looking directly to the hospitals and outside resources to provide funding and services for a free clinic.”

The exact cost of the clinics is unknown, but Gelder said the Lakeview Action Coalition is looking to secure some grant money along with getting assistance from the local hospitals.

The Lakeview Action Coalition is currently in the process of doing more research and will be conducting a health assessment need for the Lakeview community. Until then, Gelder said the statistics in the survey are enough to “get the ball rolling.”

In that survey, 10 percent of respondents have been sued over hospital bills, and 34 percent of insured and 44 percent of uninsured respondents have had their credit affected by hospital bills. Gelder said these statistics alone are proof enough that Lakeview residents need health care assistance.

Tim Hadac, spokesman for Chicago Department of Public Health, said there is some need for a free clinic in every community, but Lakeview would not rank high on the list.

“Lakeview used to have a free clinic about 10 years ago when there was a significant need, but now that need really isn’t there,” he said.

The Chicago Department of Public Health conducted a Community Area Health Inventory study that was updated in November 2007, which showed the needs in the 77 neighborhoods of Chicago. Lakeview stood out on the study, but not because of its need for services, rather for its flourishing, rich community.

The study showed that the median income for the Chicago is $38,625, and in Lakeview it is $53,881. It also showed the poverty level for Chicago is 19.6 percent, and in Lakeview it’s less than half that at 8.7 percent, with only 3 percent of its residents unemployed.

“I think if you look at Lakeview today, the levels of income are higher than they have ever been,” Hadac said. “Generally speaking, people are better off than they used to be in that neighborhood and there isn’t much poverty.”

Gelder disagreed. She said the fact that 15 percent of residents take advantage of charity care programs, which offer free or reduced care in the Lakeview community, shows the “clear need for a clinic in the community.”

Hadac said every community thinks it has a great need, but Lakeview isn’t a community that needs immediate action.

“Don’t get me wrong, we are always supportive of clinics and furthering health care throughout Chicago,” he said. “But there are a number of neighborhoods in Chicago that have a greater need than Lakeview does.”

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