Elizabeth Benson Forer, 52, executive director/CEO Venice Family Clinic, Venice, Calif.
We have had a 30% increase in new patient calls since January. Last year we increased new patients by 9% so the increase in calls since January is huge because even for us increasing by almost 10% a year is very large. I've always seen lots of people over the years but that kind of jump was not expected. Free clinics, community health care across the country, all of them are getting more calls than ever before. When I talk to fellow executive directors, they're all saying the same thing, our calls are up, our patients are up.
It's tough. Los Angeles County has huge numbers of people without health insurance, but now we're getting a new wave. A lot of our demand is based on a variety of things. It's based on the economy. It's based on unemployment. It's based on immigration policies so all of that can impact us. Since I've been at the clinic, this is the first time in the last 12 years that we've had to restrict our service area. Usually, we'd see anybody from anywhere in Los Angeles County, but because the new patient demand is so great, we can only see a portion of people from a certain area of the county. It's clearly economic factors.
People are calling us who have never called before. We've found some folks have run out of their COBRA or have finally gone on unemployment after being unemployed and having some sort of stipend for awhile and now they're out with $450 a week of unemployment benefits and are recognizing that they can't afford health care. We had a person who was laid off from AmiGen who hadn't been able to find work for many, many, many months and after nine months finally recognized that his family needed help with health care, his children needed health care and came to the clinic. I think they were earning well over $100,000 annually but when that goes away and nine plus months go by and you're not finding other work and you may have gone thru most of your savings, there's not a lot left. They're kind of resigned at that point, they'll ask and just want to know how it works and I think they're happy to find a place that's friendly and is a pleasant place to come to, that looks, you know, nicer than their doctor's office and with folks who are very highly qualified. I think there's a sense of relief when they realize that they'll get good care.