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A New Home for HAVEN Free Clinic

February 28, 2017
Photo by John Curtis
At HAVEN, students, who are supervised by faculty, provide free medical care to uninsured patients.
Student-run clinic relocates to a larger space on the medical campus

In 2005, medical, public health, nursing, and physician associate students organized a free clinic to provide an array of medical services to uninsured patients. Known as HAVEN (an acronym for Health Care, Advocacy, Volunteerism, Education, and Neighborhood), the clinic operated for more than a decade in rented space at the Fair Haven Community Health Center (FHCHC) on Saturday mornings.

FHCHC was an ideal location for HAVEN, providing access to primary care and specialty referrals to a largely Latino patient population. During its 11 years there, teams of students, volunteer attending physicians, and FHCHC’s medical directors handled more than 6,000 patient visits, making HAVEN one of the largest and most successful student-run clinics in the nation. We appreciate Fair Haven’s collaboration and would like to take this opportunity to thank its leadership and staff for their partnership and support over the years.

Now we are ushering in a new era for HAVEN, which, as of March 4, will operate out of recently renovated space in the Yale Physicians Building (YPB) on Howard Avenue. The move was prompted by federal regulations that require strict separation between free clinics and those that charge for their services—FHCHC patients pay a nominal fee based on a sliding scale. Because the two clinics shared the same facility and medical license, the Health Resources and Services Administration questioned whether HAVEN was sufficiently separate and independent to qualify as a free clinic, and this meant having to charge patients in order to remain at FHCHC. Rather than charge patients even a small amount, HAVEN’s student and faculty leadership affirmed the clinic’s mission to provide care free of charge and searched for a new home.

Thankfully, Yale Medicine, under Paul Taheri’s leadership, stepped in to offer HAVEN a home on the first floor of YPB. The large clinical space will allow HAVEN to maintain its current clinical capacity with the potential to eventually double its size. Over the years, HAVEN has already expanded services for its growing patient population. Gifts from members and friends of the medical school community and philanthropic organizations, as well as increased student involvement from across the University, have allowed it to add behavioral health and social services, legal screening, and wellness education to name just a few offerings.

The new location will still be accessible to current patients thanks to bus vouchers provided by a grant, and will also be within reach of those who live in the Hill neighborhood, an underserved area with a large African American and immigrant population. Furthermore, the central spot near Yale New Haven Hospital will be convenient for student volunteers from across the Yale campus, potentially increasing participation in this already large interdisciplinary extracurricular activity.

HAVEN brings together a number of elements that benefit the Yale and New Haven communities. For students from the health campus and from other Yale schools, it provides a place to learn about primary care, steer an organization, care for vulnerable patients, and develop cultural literacy. For faculty, it provides a unique opportunity to interact with students in an interprofessional setting that nurtures their autonomy. And for the community, it provides patients who have no health insurance access to free care from some of the best physicians in the world. I’m thankful for the time and effort the Yale community devotes to HAVEN and proud of the students who spearheaded the transition and participate in this rewarding endeavor.