Health care workers protest end of clinic’s pharmacy services

Wave Staff Report

CULVER CITY — Health care workers represented by the University Professional and Technical Employees union Local 9119 conducted a rally Nov. 14 in protest of the planned closure of pharmacy and drug counseling services at the Venice Family Clinic’s Colen Health Center.

According to the union, the Venice Family Clinic began issuing layoff notices to pharmacists Nov. 13. Health care workers at the clinic say that the scheduled shuttering of those services will significantly harm the local community, especially Spanish-speaking residents.

The Colen Health Center pharmacy serves a diverse patient population, including senior citizens who need personalized attention, and parents with young children, many of whom cannot take multiple buses out of the neighborhood to the next closest pharmacy.

The union said the decision to end pharmacy services at Colen is particularly alarming due to the closing of a nearby Rite Aid on Centinela Avenue. 

“We are a health safety net for many members of this community,” said Jeanice Carlson, a pharmacist at Colen Health Center who has worked there since 2019. “Some of our patients are undocumented, and many are underinsured or uninsured altogether. Sometimes even if they have insurance, their copays are too high to afford medication elsewhere. 

“Through grants and subsidies, we can often give them meds at cost or for free. This closure means some patients will likely go without any medication. That could cause serious health issues and even death. This is completely unacceptable.” 

In addition to closing pharmacy services at the Colen Health Center, Venice Family Clinic is also ending drug counseling services at this location, as well. 

Rose Dominguez, a drug counselor who works out of the Colen location, talked about the importance of maintaining those services.

Creating obstacles for people seriously imperils their recovery,” she said. “I am telling you this firsthand not only as a drug counselor but as someone who is in recovery myself.

“We are living through an epidemic of meth, fentanyl, crack, opiates, all of these drugs in our streets. We must have resources nearby and in walking distance for the survival of people in our community. … We are talking about life and death.”

Former Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin also attended the 

“It may seem like a small inconvenience to shut down a service and tell people to go to another facility in Venice,” Bonin said. “[But] that is not a small inconvenience. That is a huge, huge problem for many of the people who live in this neighborhood. 

“As someone in recovery myself, I will tell you that all it takes is an additional roadblock and an additional stumble to keep you away from services and from rehab — and to keep you in the throes of addiction,” Bonin said.

“I was here when they opened this clinic several years ago, and I heard the speeches and I heard the promises. And I’m here today to say to Venice Family Clinic, please reverse this action. Please reinstate these services. Please keep these services here for the people who absolutely depend upon you.”

Venice Family Clinic has said it has to close the pharmacy and drug counseling services at Colen Health Clinic because of lower government reimbursement rates on drugs. 

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