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Clinica Amistad to boost services for low-income Tucson patients, part of $6.8M federal grants in S. Az.

Clinica Amistad, a nonprofit healthcare provider for low-income patients on Tucson's South Side, will upgrade their services and facility with a federal grant. U.S. Rep Raúl Grijalva discussed the impact that a $6.8 million funding package will have on Southern Arizona nonprofits and local government agencies, as they from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grijalva included $185,000 for Clinica Amistad in a House appropriations bill last summer, a “small investment,” the congressman said, “because they do so much with so little.” The earmarked money will go towards new equipment like exam beds, new ultrasound machines and a new vehicle.

Other federal funding coming to Southern Arizona includes $1.1 million for the city of Tucson to improve the Dunbar Pavilion and its school of arts, $750,000 for the Tohono O’odham Nation to build a children’s home and $900,000 for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe to renovate the San Ignacio Health Center.

The 12-year-old Clinica Amistad is a health clinic located next to Grijalva’s Tucson congressional office that serves low-income and mostly Hispanic patients. It has a staff of four though it’s supported by 121 licensed or community volunteers. They also rely heavily on donations to pay for insulin, X-rays and medical supplies.

“The funding means the world to the clinic,” Nicole Glasner, its executive director of development, said. “It’ll help us run more efficiently and streamline services.”

The federal funds will help donations go further, Glasner said. It will also help Clinica Amistad improve the quality of training for medical students, who need community service hours but don’t have time to work, Glasner said. That will make Clinica Amistad a better career pipeline for health professionals.

Many of the medical students who do volunteer with Clinica Amistad “are inspired to continue treating patients in the same kind of (low-income) setting,” Glasner said.

Staff at the bilingual clinic also want to begin an outreach effort to tell the community that they offer affordable access to healthcare. Getting people to the clinic sooner prevents the long-term costs when conditions are left untreated, Glasner said, especially if people have to go to an emergency room.

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One of the most common conditions that Clinica Amistad staff treat among their Hispanic patients is diabetes, said Raymond Graap, the clinic's medical director.

Patients often come to the clinic to check for skin cancer too, said Pat Ferrer, a physician assistant who volunteers for the clinic and specializes in dermatology. Skin cancers are a frequent problem because many of their patients work outdoors.

Grijalva also said he hopes that Congress starts funding pandemic recovery efforts in areas like business, housing, education and healthcare.

“If you start looking at how much we’ve stabilized after the pandemic, you’ll see that a full recovery still isn’t there on the economic side,” he said. “The question of whether we’ll extend this kind of spending as a way of life if still down the road, but for now, we need to continue investments in immediate relief. The resources are there to transition to a full recovery.”

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member.

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