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Thursday, June 01, 2023

ACORN Medical Clinic to close its doors by the end of the year

After 45 years of providing medical care to lower income and uninsured residents, an Alachua County clinic stopping medical services. 

ACORN Clinic will be phasing out its primary care medical clinic by the end of the year due to large cuts in legislative funding. However, the clinic will continue to provide dental services, said Candice King, the executive director of ACORN.

After searching for financially sustainable options for the clinic for several years, the board of directors voted to shut down the medical clinic in July 2019 due to a loss in funding over the past 10 years, King said. 

“We weren't happy that we had to do this and they certainly aren't happy that they're having to make a change,” King said. “Many of them have been at ACORN clinic for many years.”

For 45 years, the Brooker-based clinic has provided healthcare with sliding scale fees where the cost of a service is based on the patient’s income. The clinic often served uninsured patients, as well as Medicare and Medicaid patients in the rural areas of Alachua County, she said. 

“Our mission specifically has been to serve underserved and low income, primarily rural, residents who have difficulty accessing affordable health care,” King said.

The clinic has set itself apart over the years with services unusual to rural clinics such as acupuncture and massage therapy, she said. It also provided opportunities for medical students to learn from physicians working at private practices, UF Health and the VA Hospital. 

There are currently 12 sliding scale primary care medical clinics within a 20 mile radius of ACORN that uninsured patients can go to instead, King said. For example, Medicaid patients can go to UF Health.

Dr. Runi Foster, 56, is a clinical associate professor of medicine within the division of pulmonary and critical care at UF Health who has volunteered at ACORN for 25 years. She also received the Mobile Outreach Clinic and Community Outreach Clinic Award for her work at ACORN. 

Foster said communities need clinics such as ACORN to serve uninsured and Medicaid patients that are turned away from private or university practices. 

“We need some kind of safety net program and I think ACORN was one of the best clinics out there for safety net,” she said. 

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