County's natural medicine clinic saved in reworked state budget



P.I. Reporter

April 29, 1997


The nation's only publicly funded; natural medicine clinic was saved in the, 11th hour of budget negotiations when state lawmakers approved $5000,000 to keep the project going.

"I'm ecstatic," said Nancy Weaver, who coordinates the natural medicine project for King County. "I can't even begin to tell you my feelings when I got a call that said it looks like it's in there."

The King County Integrated Natural Medicine Clinic in Kent, which combines natural medicine and conventional Western medicine opened in October as part of a two-year study on how the two forms of medicine can work together and cut medical costs.

It was initially funded last year with $750,000 in federal money, which runs out July 1.

Supporters had been counting on another $750,000 from the slate this year to maintain the clinic and to complete the study but that money was omitted from the initial budget sent to Gov Gary Locke earlier this month.

Republican state Sen. Pam Roach said Locke's decision to veto portions of the budget gave her the chance to ask over the weekend that most of the necessary money be restored.

"We had a very good broad base of support to continue this program," said Roach of Auburn.

"What we want to do is reduce the cost of health care. Many of us believe that can be done by stressing a more preventive approach and also by allowing that we have been servicing a variety of needs for citizens. Some feel more comfortable when there's a natural approach to medicine."

The clinic, which is the brainchild of Metropolitan King County Councilman, Kent Pullen, has been featured in national magazines and television news programs as an innovative program for medical care.

Other states- including Arizona, New York and California - are looking at it as a model for future clinics in hopes that its focus an affordable preventive care will save money, Weaver said.

There is still $250,000 shortfall, however, Pullen, a Kent Republican, said the clinic for low income's residents has strong bipartisan support on the County Council, and he believes money sources can be found in county coffers to help fill the gap.

Pullen, chairman of the council's Law, Justice, and Human Services Committee, said he has not ruled out seeking grants, both public and private, to keep the project alive.

Merrily Manthey, chairwoman of the Kent natural medicine project, said that despite some tense days in recent weeks, she is pleased the state agree to continue funding the project.

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