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San Rafael’s Ritter Center gains approval for vital medical services

with 2 comments

Marin County, California
The San Rafael City Council gave its final approval this week to the Ritter Center’s new medical module, a needed upgrade to fulfill its mission as a federally qualified health center.

Ritter Center, San Rafael CA, Homeless programs, Medical treatment of the homeless

Most of the Ritter Center's clients are friendly and cooperative

A neighborhood group had challenged the medical addition on various grounds, the most serious being that improved health services would only serve to attract more troublemakers to an already unruly crowd at the Center’s San Rafael campus.

Over 200 citizens attended the Council meeting, with many speakers pro and con. Everyone acknowledged that the Ritter Center plays a useful role in unraveling the seemingly intractable problem of homelessness in one of the richest counties in California, but the speakers were divided on the location of the program and its impact on the greater community, particularly local businesses.

Ritter Center in San Rafael, San Rafael City Council meeting, Homelessness

An overflow crowd attended the San Rafael City Council meeting about improvements in medical treatment for the homeless

Most criticism seemed heartfelt, but ignored Ritter’s recent improvements.

Ritter representatives patiently explained what they were doing to mitigate the program’s adverse neighborhood impact.  The sometimes raucous atmosphere is already being addressed by the recent addition of a safety officer at the gate and a community outreach person monitoring activities in and around the campus.

Diane Linn, Ritter Center Executive Director, addresses the San Rafael City Council

Cia Byrnes, Marin County Homelessness, Health needs of the homeless

Cia Byrnes, Health Clinic Administrator, explains the medical clinic's functions

Mental Health Needs of the Homeless

Joel Fay, Clinical Intern Supervisor, explains the mental health needs of the homeless

My Opinion
One point I think everyone missed is that most problems at the Center are not caused by people waiting for clinical services, but by a subgroup of homeless using the center as a convenient place to hang out, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and use and sell drugs. Some have severe mental illnesses. I don’t think additional space in the new medical module will have much effect with this group. I do think the safety officer and outreach worker (who need a crash course in working with the mentally ill) will go a long way toward addressing these challenges.

In the end, the City Council correctly found that even with the real problems caused by some of the Center’s denizens, a greater good is served by approval of the new medical clinic. The Council did impose several restrictions, at least one totally frivolous in my opinion. Ritter will be allowed to see an average of 60 clients per day rather that 65 as requested. As though five more clients per day would have a noticeable impact on the neighborhood.


Written by Ron Greene

April 6, 2012 at 11:03 am

2 Responses

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  1. Hello sir,
    Thank you for your nice is very interesting and informative posting.the City Council correctly found that even with the real problems caused by some of the Center’s denizens, a greater good is served by approval of the new medical clinic.

    Blues and Twos

    September 12, 2014 at 10:36 am

    • Yes, the medical clinic is doing very well and is serving a broad section of the low-income community.

      Ron Greene

      September 12, 2014 at 11:32 am

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