By Ron Chew
Contributor to Northwest Asian Weekly
A new clinic will be coming to Bellevue in April, giving people another option for high quality and affordable health care.
Located on the northeast corner of 140th Street and 10th Avenue, the new International Community Health Services (ICHS) facility will have 10 medical exam rooms and eight dental chairs. There will be 55 parking spaces for patients. This will be ICHS’ fifth clinic, which is projected to serve 10,000 patients each year. This new clinic marks ICHS’ first foray into offering services on the Eastside and reflects the emergence of ICHS as a regional health care provider, not simply a Seattle-based organization.
“We have a population in Bellevue that is underserved and has problems accessing quality healthcare,” said Gildas Cheung, president of the ICHS board. “It will be a proud day for us when we open our doors in a few months, and people can come in to receive culturally and linguistically appropriate health services.”
The location in Bellevue was selected based on community needs assessments and feasibility studies conducted in 2006 and 2007.
“There’s a perception that everyone has money and is doing well in Bellevue,” says Teresita Batayola, CEO of ICHS. “Not true. If you take a look at the actual demographics, you’ll find that a huge percentage of the residents are immigrants, Asian Pacific Islanders, low-income, and people of color. Our clinic has the expertise to serve those populations.”
Alaric Bien, senior planner for the City of Redmond, agrees, “On the Eastside, the population has been changing for quite some time. One-third of the population is foreign-born. People don’t realize that there’s a huge need for the kind of culturally and linguistically appropriate services that ICHS is so experienced at providing.”
Bien, who has been living on the Eastside for almost 20 years, said that even though there are many highly-educated Asian professionals living in Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah, and Sammamish, there are also many low-income apartment dwellers — immigrant seniors, and those working in restaurants, cafeterias, and hotels — who don’t match the stereotypic profile of the well-to-do Eastsider.
Batayola said that the expansion of ICHS into Bellevue reflects a larger core belief that the organization should be in neighborhoods where its patients reside. “By serving our community, we don’t wait for people to come to us. We go where they are.”
One ICHS patient, Fin To, an immigrant from Vietnam, has been looking forward to the opening of the Bellevue clinic with great anticipation for some time. When she was living on Beacon Hill, the travel time to the International District clinic was modest. After she and her husband moved to Bellevue, the commute has become much more challenging. “Every time I go to Chinatown, I have to allow 45 minutes or sometimes an hour before my appointment time,” she said.
To’s three children, Amos, 18, Ethan, 16, and Ivan, 10, have been ICHS patients since they were born. “I’ve been going to ICHS for 19 years,” she said. “The service is nice and I like the doctor. It helps the Asian community. There are lots of Asians in Bellevue, but they can’t make it over because of the distance and because they work. It will be great to have ICHS in Bellevue.”
ICHS is also building a clinic in Shoreline’s Aurora corridor, slated to open in August.
During the economic downturn in recent years, ICHS found itself struggling to cope with the ongoing health care needs of an expanding patient base at the same time that the state was cutting back its funding support. “We faced a rough lean patch for a few years,” said Batayola. “With a little bit of breathing room, we’re now starting to look a little further into the future at how we might appropriately respond to health care needs in low-income and immigrant communities outside Seattle in light of what’s happening more broadly under the Affordable Care Act.”
ICHS, first established by Asian American graduate students as a free community clinic to serve Filipino and Chinese elderly immigrants in the International District, is the largest health care provider for Asian Pacific Americans in Washington state. ICHS serves over 20,000 individuals annually, the majority of whom speak limited English. It currently operates health centers in the International District, Holly Park, and Seattle World School.
ICHS also runs a weekly primary care clinic at Asian Counseling and Referral Service.
The Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation awarded ICHS with a $100,000 grant to help pay for construction of the Bellevue clinic. In addition, ICHS received a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant from the City of Bellevue. “This is a significant commitment, demonstrating strong community support for this project,” said Batayola. “We are grateful to have the support of our partners who share our vision of making health care accessible to everyone who needs it.” (end)
Ron Chew is Foundation Director at ICHS.