The Clinic’s Tale: Chasing FQHC Status Not for the Faint-Hearted


The Central Neighborhood Health Foundation has been providing care to generations of the working poor and uninsured in a Los Angeles region near the Watts neighborhood. By the early 1990s, changes in the Medi-Cal program resulted in a steep drop in patient load, and the clinic had to reduce staff as it struggled to maintain financial stability.

Bassett Brown, MD, Central Neighborhood’s founder and CEO, decided to seek designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). In the photos below, see Dr. Brown with clinic patients and other clinic leaders.

  • Dr. Bassett Brown with patient Gayle Dowell. A community fixture in L.A.’s Watts area, the Central Neighborhood clinic has served generations of working poor and uninsured. The clinic is climbing back to financial stability after several difficult years.

This case study follows the precipitous path of the clinic since it began its quest for FQHC designation in 2004. Complicating the run-up to submission of the clinic’s application was the need to simultaneously convert the organizational structure from for-profit to nonprofit. Central Neighborhood ultimately submitted its inch-and-a-half-thick FQHC application, in triplicate, in March 2009.

Approval of FQHC Look-Alike status came in August 2010 from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the administrators of the FQHC program. But the aftermath was as difficult as the run-up to the change in status. Central Neighborhood’s unfamiliarity with myriad FQHC rules collectively cost the clinic between $500,000 and $750,000, the bulk of which resulted from Medi-Cal underpayments. Eventually, with consulting assistance, the clinic was able to begin receiving its proper reimbursement and found its way to firmer ground.

Although Central Neighborhood’s FQHC odyssey has been daunting, the clinic’s future looks brighter.