Congressman Adam Smith, center, tours the Mapu Maia Clinic May 25 in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Adam Smith

Congressman Adam Smith, center, tours the Mapu Maia Clinic May 25 in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Adam Smith

Two Kent community projects on request list for federal funding

Sea Mar wants to build medical clinic, affordable housing; UTOPIA seeks to expand services

Two Kent projects are on a list submitted by Congressman Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, for community project funding by Congress in 2023.

Sea Mar, a nonprofit, wants to build a new medical clinic and affordable housing mixed use facility at 622 Washington Ave. N. The $3 million request would support construction of the clinic, according to a May 18 news release from Smith’s office. Seattle-based Sea Mar operates community health centers in 10 Washington counties.

UTOPIA (United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance) Washington, had a request of $500,000 submitted by Smith to expand its substance use and mental health services at its Mapu Maia Clinic. The nonprofit is at 841 Central Ave. N.

Smith made the requests for 15 projects in his 9th District to the House Committee on Appropriations for consideration in the fiscal year 2023 bill. This does not guarantee the projects will be funded.

Sea Mar’s project would allow it to provide increased access to health care, culturally sensitive care, as well as affordable and equitable medical and housing services to underserved populations including those of low income, the uninsured or publicly insured and disenfranchised minority groups, according to the news release.

The medical clinic and affordable housing mixed use facility also will allow Sea Mar to increase the number of patients the organization already serves with its local clinics, as well as provide an updated, integrated system of care unique in the area.

Given its distance from other clinics providing services to uninsured and Medicaid patients, and its location in a severely distressed area, Sea Mar anticipates being able to serve 6,000 unduplicated medical patients, 3,960 dental patients and 675 behavioral health patients per year once fully operational.

The project would be built on the southeast corner of West James Street and Washington Avenue North at the site of the former Lucy Lopez Community Center. The center opened in 2006 in a converted home. The center was a nonprofit cultural and education facility set up to serve a growing Hispanic population as well others in the city through English classes, citizenship classes and other services.

Sea Mar attempted to help revive the Lopez Center in 2008, but the short-term agreement didn’t work out. Center leaders later closed the facility because of a lack of funds.

Sea Mar officials did not respond to requests from the Kent Reporter about the proposed project or any other details about their plans. Sea Mar has a medical clinic at 233 Second Ave. S., in downtown Kent and an affordable housing facility in Des Moines.

“I am committed to fighting for the people of Washington’s 9th District and today I am thrilled to announce the 15 community project funding requests that I submitted for consideration in the FY 2023 appropriations bill,” Smith said. “These organizations are doing important work in our community to empower the most vulnerable among us and make the 9th District a better place to live for all residents.

“The funding will help tackle some of our region’s most pressing challenges including housing, health care, child care, education and workforce development, small business development, and public safety. Importantly, the projects focus on investments in underserved communities, including low-income individuals and families, immigrants, refugees, Black, Indigenous, and people of color, women and children, and seniors.”

Funds for UTOPIA

UTOPIA (United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance) Washington, had a request of $500,000 submitted by Smith. The nonprofit is at 841 Central Ave. N., in Kent.

UTOPIA and its Mapu Maia Clinic serve as a trusted, culturally aligned, free health care resource for Pacific Islanders in the LGBTQI community, according to the news release. The Mapu Maia Clinic provides resources for substance use and mental health services, including prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support services.

The Mapu Maia Clinic has served the community since the outbreak of the pandemic and has provided health care needs and services to community members through trusted partnerships and volunteer efforts of health care providers and organizations.

“Today, I had the opportunity to see firsthand the critically important work being done at the Mapu Maia Clinic to expand access to health care services in Kent, especially for LBGTQIA+ community members,” Smith said about a May 25 visit to the clinic. “UTOPIA’s culturally relevant prevention, harm reduction, treatment, recovery support, and transgender and gender-diverse health care services are making a real difference in addressing the lack of health care services available to many people Washington’s Ninth District.

“UTOPIA is dedicated to serving members of the Pacific Islander and broader LGBTQIA+ community who face significant health disparities and cultural barriers to accessing quality health care. The funding I requested will build on this crucial work and expand the reach of the clinic’s services.”

The funding would help enable UTOPIA to establish a fully functional drop-in clinic that operates weekly and after-hours to meet the needs of the community members with a range of substance use and mental health related services, according to the news release.

This will help UTOPIA meet the specific needs of the LGBTQI community, immigrants, and communities of color that face cultural barriers and exacerbated health disparities. Funding will enable Mapu Maia Clinic to expand the reach of its services to provide needed community and culturally informed health care services and programming.

“We are thankful to Congressman Adam Smith and his hard-working team for recognizing and uplifting the work that UTOPIA Washington is doing with our Mapu Maia Clinic,” said Taffy Johnson, UTOPIA WA executive director, in a Smith press release. “With this support and allyship, our clinic can and will help to address the lack of awareness and education around transgender and gender-diverse health care needs and provide healthcare resources and services to our broader LGBTQIA+ community members.”

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