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People's health clinics officially close their doors

Internal Revenue Service

The financially troubled People's Community Health Centers closed its five clinics serving low-income Marylanders on Monday.

The organization had announced plans to shut the doors at the end of June, though as recently as last week officials were trying to broker a last-minute deal to keep the clinics open.

A recorded telephone greeting at the People's office Monday announced that the centers were closed and gave instructions for how patients could obtain their medical records.

A spokesman for People's did not respond to phone messages, and email messages were returned as undeliverable.

Founded in 1970, People's operated Baltimore clinics in Waverly, Station North and Pigtown, and in Anne Arundel County at Brooklyn Park and Odenton. While some patients had private insurance or government insurance such as Medicaid, the clinics also treated uninsured patients, with a federal grant paying for many of its costs.

In a letter June 17, People's interim CEO Stacy C. Fruhling alluded to problems receiving the federal grant due to "circumstances beyond our control." Fruhling and People's officials have not publicly discussed the funding problems.

Officials with the federal Health Resources and Services Administration have said People's $2.4 million annual grant is intact, and the agency is working with People's on its problems.

On Monday, HRSA spokesman Martin Kramer said the agency had not been informed officially that People's had closed its doors.

People's owes $463,925.62 to the Internal Revenue Service for back withholding taxes, is the subject of three state wage complaints from employees, and has been sued by multiple creditors in recent months for nonpayment of bills. After learning of the financial problems facing People's, Anne Arundel County suspended a $1.9 million grant that was intended for a new community and health center in Severn that was to include a People's clinic.

Since the People's closing was announced in mid-June, other federally supported health clinics began accepting People's patients.

pwood@baltsun.com

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