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API Wellness Announces Name Change

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Lance Toma
Lance Toma  (Source:Jane Philomen Cleland)

A San Francisco-based nonprofit known for providing health services to the city's Asian and Pacific Islander LGBT community and residents of the Tenderloin neighborhood has changed its name.

Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center launched its new name - San Francisco Community Health Center - January 26 at its 30th anniversary Pearl Gala.

"Since our beginnings over 30 years ago, API Wellness has always stood for quality health care rooted in social justice for Asian and Pacific Islander communities and all marginalized communities," said Executive Director Lance Toma in response to emailed questions this week. "With our newest transformation two years ago as a federally qualified health center, we are committed to ensuring full access to any and all low-income and homeless individuals in the Tenderloin. So many health care needs are going unaddressed for so many vulnerable communities, including transgender individuals, in San Francisco and we want to ensure that everyone knows they are welcome to access health care with us."

Toma, a gay man, said that some clients had reported they felt they couldn't access the health center's services "because they weren't Asian or Pacific Islander," so the new name is intended, in part, "to say to the community that anyone who is in need of our services can get them here. We will continue to be committed to the API community, all communities of color, LGBTQ communities, and really, the queerest among us."

For the past several years the nonprofit has been expanding its health care services. In 2015 its Polk Street clinic was designated a federally qualified health center and was rebuilt as the agency ramped up its capacity to treat more patients.

In April 2017, with the opening of its new primary care clinic in the LGBT Community Center, the wellness center touted it as the first "health home" for the entire LGBT community in San Francisco's gay Castro district.

Toma said that despite the new name, the health center's programs and services would continue "as they have always been operating in service of community need. Our intention is that we will continue to grow and expand with our new brand."

With a budget of about $7 million, the nonprofit serves about 3,000 unique clients, "and we have plans to expand the number of clients we serve," he said. "We hope that our name change is a sign to the community that we truly believe that everyone deserves quality health care and that we want everyone - including the queerest among us - to feel welcome accessing services with us."

However, the new name has been "an adjustment for everyone," he said.

"While some folks have been sad about our name change, most have been excited about this change and how inclusive this name is for everyone that currently accesses services with us," said Toma. "We will be continuing our API-focused programming alongside everything else we do. I have really been grateful to our diligent staff working with our clients to make this transition relatively seamless."

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