Seattle Children’s opens new community clinic to serve families affected by gentrification

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Dr. Benjamin Danielson with a patient family at the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic in Seattle. (Seattle Children’s Photo)

The story of gentrification and skyrocketing housing prices is becoming a well-worn one in Seattle. But here’s an organization you normally don’t hear talking about housing prices: A children’s hospital.

As Seattle is remade by a booming tech economy, Seattle Children’s Hospital is getting innovative with how it treats at-risk children in the community. The organization announced Tuesday that it will open a new clinic in South Seattle in response to increased gentrification, particularly in Seattle’s Central District — and the news is an important reminder of the real-world impacts of a changing city.

“We are constantly working ‘upstream’ to address the most foundational influencers of health,” Dr. Benjamin Danielson told GeekWire via email. He isn’t a social worker, a community organizer or a housing specialist, but in his role, he needs to have the expertise of all three.

Danielson is the senior medical director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC), which first opened in 1970. The clinic’s Central District location has become a hub of the area’s community since its inception, providing medical, dental and mental health care for children regardless of their family’s ability to pay.

But as gentrification has changed the Central District, the OBCC has watched the community it serves be pushed further and further South. Now, the clinic is following suit with a second location in South Seattle, directly attached to the Othello Light Rail station.

Danielson said the clinic focuses on helping children be maximally healthy, a process that starts far outside the clinic walls.

“This means making specific efforts to help with determinants of health like housing insecurity, food insecurity, basic clothing, school supplies, transportation needs, and many other important issues that are named by the families themselves,” he said. “It means partnering with lawyers – in our ‘medical legal partnership’ – to address civil-legal issues like housing rights, immigration and educational rights.”

The OBCC’s original location in Seattle’s Central District, which will be renovated and will continue to serve families and children in Central and North Seattle. (Seattle Children’s Photo)

The new clinic is an innovative example of healthcare moving outside the four walls of a clinic or hospital to encourage health directly in communities, a trend that is only becoming more popular as the U.S. seeks to tackle runaway health costs. The clinic’s Central District locatin will be renovated and will continue to serve patients in the neighborhood, as well as those traveling from North Seattle.

Danielson said Seattle Children’s chose Othello Station for the new location to make the clinic maximally accessible to those living in South Seattle and South King County, particularly patients who rely on public transport. But the neighborhood also aligns with the clinic’s goal to support all families, regardless of income.

“We also wanted to be part of a neighborhood that was working to block further displacement and assure opportunity for families of all cultures and incomes. We found all of that at Othello Station, with the best possible location and a combination of services – as well as housing – that are nothing short of amazing,” he said.

The new clinic location will be funded by Seattle Children’s ongoing $1 billion It Starts With Yes campaign. That campaign is also building a new facility for Seattle Children’s Research Institution in South Lake Union and funding uncompensated care across Seattle Children’s Hospital.

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