Big Plans- A Personal Letter from our Board Chair

Posted Wednesday, May 14, 2014

To the Lyon-Martin Community,

We’ve been through a lot together these last three years. Throughout, I have been sharing with you the many challenges we face at this beloved clinic.  I’ve never seen a group of people work so hard for so long and with such heart. One thing is for certain, the Lyon-Martin staff and board have moxie!

Which is why I’m so thrilled to share today’s announcement that Lyon-Martin Health Services plans to join with HealthRIGHT 360 – an organization that embraces Lyon-Martin’s historical significance and will sustain and stabilize it. When I reflect on where we have been, I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished together as we mark the start of an exciting new chapter.

Our path to a sustainable, dazzling future
As you know, this journey began on January 25th 2011 when a large group of community members met at the LGBT Center after hearing that Lyon-Martin Health Services was 24 hours from closure to say clearly and loudly – “NO! You will NOT close this clinic!” We learned that day of a dire situation: over a million dollars in debt and significant organizational failures, including unpaid payroll taxes and inadequate billing practices. Despite those shocking revelations, we all knew saving the clinic was possible and important.

Then, when I became the new board chair, I told a gathering of “Save Lyon-Martin” supporters that I was committed to a course of action that would avoid bankruptcy and keep Lyon-Martin open. Each new board member we brought on embraced the same mantra: this health center means too much to too many for us to fail in this endeavor.

Since then we have rebuilt the fundraising program, including new signature efforts (like Dazzle, Ten on the Tenth, 30 Days of Health and Mary’s Match), hired and kept amazing staff, and built one of the most functional and powerful boards I’ve ever witnessed.  We’ve also had lots of support: a grant from the San Francisco Department of Public Health that held us aloft for over two years, a few dedicated donors who materialized out of thin air and gave very generously, and an unprecedented groundswell of community-powered fundraising.

Yet, despite this outpouring of support, we continue to tread water. While we’ve upheld my dual promises of avoiding closure or going bankrupt, the hits keep coming. This amazing, revolutionary time within healthcare presents new regulatory and administrative hurdles. We’ve ensured the continued delivery of high-quality patient care yet we’ve not made much of a dent in our inherited debt. Our landlord sold the building, putting a question mark on the long-term outlook of our space. The ending of the city contract, a still-troublesome billing system… the list goes on.

During the course of the last year, the board has had to ask itself many questions: Do we keep limping along like this? How do we best serve our patients or support our superlative staff if we are constantly hampered by financial constraints? How can we do justice to the founders’ vision, all who have worked and volunteered here, and our namesakes’ Phyllis and Del’s legacy if we have a hard time paying our bills?

A new era begins for this time-honored community health center
We’ve looked at a number of scenarios and I’m confident a merger with HealthRIGHT 360 is our best option. Lyon-Martin will remain intact and functionally the same health center we know and love, but as a program of HealthRIGHT 360.

HealthRIGHT 360’s board and staff understand and support the role we play in ensuring our community is healthy and well cared for. They are as excited as we are about what a Lyon-Martin — free of debt, secure within a larger administrative department, and encouraged to grow and thrive — will be able to achieve in the future.

I’ve spent many hours with HealthRIGHT 360 staff and board members which is why I am more convinced then ever that what Lyon-Martin does — provide excellent healthcare services to women, with a focus on lesbian and bisexual women, and the transgender community – will not only continue but will flourish. As our model and approach become infused throughout all of HealthRIGHT 360 programs it is clear that Lyon-Martin and HealthRIGHT 360 will be stronger together.

We should all feel not only a huge sigh of relief, but tremendous pride. We have truly saved Lyon-Martin.  Now, the only thing that will stop us from making sure that all LGBT people have excellent services throughout the State of California is the limit of our imagination.

You will hear lots today and in upcoming weeks about the structure of this merger, but today I am focused on this tremendous opportunity. There will be opportunities to talk with us about this announcement and, as always, we are available for anyone who would like to talk about the planned merger. Drop a note at the clinic, email us at townhall@lyon-martin.org or come by our Town Hall next week and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

Thank you for all your love, support and fundraising. We are all crossing this next threshold together.

Best, Marj Plumb Chair,
Board of Directors
Lyon-Martin Health Services