People's Community Health Centers to close in Baltimore, Arundel

A nonprofit health clinic that serves more than 11,000 low-income clients at centers in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County is closing its doors at the end of the month.

Stacy C. Fruhling, interim CEO of People's Community Health Centers, blamed the decision on "circumstances beyond our control."

Delays in receiving funds from a federal grant have affected the organization's ability to provide ongoing care, she wrote in a letter released Tuesday. She said all patients were being transferred to other health care providers.

People's treats clients at three locations in Baltimore and two in Anne Arundel County, spokesman Brian Lyles said. The organization has about 100 employees.

The organization has received about $2.4 million per year from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. Patients are charged based on their ability to pay.

HRSA officials recently conducted a site visit of People's, but their report will not be made public until August or later, a spokesman said.

The HRSA, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is based in Rockville. Spokesman Martin Kramer said People's federal grant funding remained in place on Tuesday, and the agency was working with the organization as it worked to stabilize its operations.

In Baltimore, People's operates clinics in Waverly, Station North and Washington Village.

In Anne Arundel County, People's has clinics in Brooklyn Park and Odenton. A third Arundel clinic was planned for Severn as part of a joint health and community center. But Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman suspended a $1.9 million grant for the project last week after learning of financial problems at People's.

Julie Mussog, the county's controller, said contractors planning the Severn project contacted county officials to say that they weren't being paid by People's, and a former employee alerted the county to an IRS judgment against People's.

Fruhling said last week that "we are working with the IRS and an outside advocate to resolve the issue as expediently as possible, and we continue to move forward with our mission and activities."

State Sen. Ed DeGrange Sr. an Anne Arundel Democrat, said local, state and federal officials are working to find another health care provider who can take over the work People's was doing in Anne Arundel.

County Councilman Daryl Jones, a Democrat who represents Severn and Brooklyn Park, said it was important to keep offering care to low-income residents to take pressure off local hospitals, where uninsured patients show up if they can't find affordable health care.

"We believe within that time frame, working collaboratively we'll find someone to keep those doors open," he said.

Baltimore health officials declined to comment Tuesday.

pwood@baltsun.com

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