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The Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics provides affordable medical and dental care for 17,000 local families. Photo courtesy of Rose Eichenbaum.


A financial crisis nearly shut down theSanta Barbara Neighborhood Clinics (SBNC) earlier this year. The closure of SBNC would have had a devastating effect on the thousands of families who have relied on its affordable medical and dental services for over 40 years, concomitantly putting a huge strain on the entire health care system in the region. But the Santa Barbara community rallied to provide leadership and financial support to the clinics, laying the foundation for SBNC to find its way back to stability and sustainability.

Under the leadership of Cottage Health System, a nationally known consultant was retained to conduct a thorough investigation of SBNC’s financial picture and develop a 100-day transition plan addressing operational issues with clear goals and milestones. The plan – which covered governance, staff leadership, union relationships, debt, county compliance, reimbursement rates, scheduling, and fiscal and outcome accountability – helped SBNC reduce its annual expenses by more than $1 million a year. “The plan was as tough as it was thorough. Not a single aspect of how the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics is operated remained untouched,” said Ron Gallo, president & CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation.

Additionally, the Santa Barbara Foundation spearheaded an effort to raise $600,000 that allowed the clinics to continue operations during the turnaround period. Participating funders included the Santa Barbara Foundation; Cottage Health System; Wood-Claeyssens Foundation; Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation; Ann Jackson Family Foundation; Hutton Parker Foundation; Mosher Foundation; Sansum Clinic; The Fund for Santa Barbara; James S. Bower Foundation; Outhwaite Foundation; Saint Francis Foundation; Gildea Foundation; Crawford Idema Family Foundation; Linked Foundation; McCune Foundation; as well as individual donors.

“The philanthropic community came together in a stunning fashion, not just to save this important community organization, but much more so to preserve and strengthen Santa Barbara’s capacity to provide affordable health care to 17,000 of our residents,” said Ron. “This was a moment where philanthropy – with its agility, financial resources, and guidance – was a critical and timely player in solving an important community problem.”

SBNC is still challenged with an annual fundraising goal of approximately half a million dollars, which according to the independent consultant is consistent with the need of many health clinics throughout the nation. “What remains front and center is the need for the Santa Barbara community to continue to insure access to quality affordable care for thousands of its residents – as a matter of compassion, common sense, and overall well being of our health system,” said Ron. “Those of us who have been a part of this effort and who have closely monitored their progress know that the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics is worthy of your investment. There is still some urgency to their need, so please be attentive to their appeal for your continued generosity.”

As SBNC continues on its road to economic recovery and financial independence, led by Board Chair Mark Palmer and new Executive Director Trula Breuninger, it will remain focused on its highest priority of providing quality, affordable health care to patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

“Without the backing of the Santa Barbara Foundation and its supporters, we would never have been able to achieve keeping our doors open while accomplishing a major financial restructure,” said Mark. “The help went beyond the dollars – pulling the community together, establishing an oversight committee to monitor progress, and providing guidance and support. Through very challenging times, the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics never missed a beat in delivering health care services to our patients. Thank you for allowing us to continue serving this community.”

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