"The mission of the Willow Clinic is to holistically improve the health of community members who are currently living outside or experiencing homelessness while providing a unique platform for student education. We strive to address inequities in healthcare access by operating a free clinic each Saturday. Community members regardless of documentation, or insurance status, can seek medical and psychiatric care as well as a host of other services. We utilize a patient-centered care approach where we prioritize listening to and learning from our community members to best incorporate harm reduction and trauma-informed care in our clinic.
Though we provide necessary services to alleviate part of the effects of a much larger, systemic issue, we strive to provide a space for our students to critically reflect on their roles as future health professionals and stand in solidarity with people first and housing first, community-based movements. The Willow Clinic brings together a diverse set of compassionate, dedicated, and enthusiastic students and healthcare professionals who are constantly working together to improve our approach."
Whether it be due to a lack of community resources to treat mental illness and substance abuse, or simply unfortunate circumstances, the homeless face an abundance of challenges beyond not having adequate housing, including reduced access to health care and education, increased risk of violence and abuse, and importantly, demoralizing social stigma.
In 2002, a small group of UC Davis medical students saw recognized the struggles of the homeless community in Sacramento and were compelled to make a change. A symbol of healing and stability due to its deep roots, the Willow tree was chosen as the logo of their screening clinic, which became known as the Willow Project. In conjunction with the Salvation Army and the County of Sacramento, The Willow Project first opened its doors staffed entirely by undergraduate and medical students. Although the clinic lacked prescription medications and physicians, and was funded entirely through fundraising events held throughout the year, its enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers were determined to change the quality of life of the neediest members of their community. Patients were screened for hypertension, diabetes, mental illness, lice, scabies, and other chronic illnesses, and referred to the appropriate community resources when required.
Over the span of several years, the undergraduate and medical student volunteers worked with the UC Davis School of Medicine, with sponsorship from the Department of Psychiatry-Medicine and Psychiatry Advisory Group, to convert the Willow Project to the Willow Clinic, a fully functional university-affiliated student-run clinic. The Willow Clinic is the only Med/Psych clinic, focusing not only on the general medical needs of its patients but also on their mental health needs. The opening of the Willow Clinic at the start of 2009 signaled a newfound commitment to the underserved homeless population in Sacramento, and also underscored the importance of preventative and holistic patient care, being able to treat both the mind and the body.
Currently featuring an expanded dispensary, extended community resources, dental services, and nutrition counseling, the Willow Clinic is a growing fixture in the safety net of healthcare in Sacramento.