Raleigh to rescind grant over center’s ties to anti-abortion, LGBTQ conversion groups

Raleigh leaders vote to give $30,000 to a faith-based medical center

The Raleigh City Council voted to give $30,000 to NeighborHealth, a faith-based medical center, during the May 7 meeting.
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The Raleigh City Council voted to give $30,000 to NeighborHealth, a faith-based medical center, during the May 7 meeting.

A week after approving it, Raleigh city leaders will take back $30,000 they had agreed to give a faith-based medical center.

Some residents questioned why the city would support NeighborHealth Center, which lists as its partners a group that opposes abortion and another that’s affiliated with an organization that supports LGBTQ conversion therapy.

The Raleigh City Council unanimously approved the grant during its May 7 meeting at the urging of council member Kay Crowder.

In a Facebook post Monday, Crowder apologized for not following the city’s normal procedure for funding nonprofits and said she only wanted to support an organization that tries to “improve the lives of those with the least means and greatest needs.”

NeighborHealth is a faith-based, nonprofit health center that provides care to underserved communities, including refugees, and those without insurance.

“NHC serves everyone without discrimination,” said Karen Cook, who provides marketing and communications services for the center. “We serve patients of all ages regardless of insurance status, race, religion or sexual orientation. We’ve seen patients from more than 40 countries of all backgrounds.”

Since it’s been open, NeighborHealth has served more than 1,600 patients with about 70% of those being uninsured, she said.

NeighborHealth CEO Sue Ellen Thompson called the situation a “misunderstanding” on Tuesday.

‘Influenced by misinformation’

“NeighborHealth Center deeply respects all council members and their role in fostering a community of care within our great city,” NeighborHealth said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “However, our respect for the council doesn’t preclude us from disappointment, and it is unfortunate that the council’s desire to retract funds is influenced by misinformation.”

The center will withdrawal its request for city funds and instead apply through the regular grant processes, the statement said.

“As a faith-based, non-profit health center serving marginalized populations, we will continue to move forward in our mission with an unparalleled commitment to serving patients with high-quality health care, without discrimination.

The center, at 4201 Lake Boone Trail, lists several congregation, community and ministry partners on its website including Gateway Women’s Care and Church of the Apostles.

Gateway Women’s Care center is part of the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, which opposes abortion, and is associated with CareNet, another group that says it’s against abortion, according to Tara Romano, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina.

“We definitely have concerns about how some of the information on Gateway’s website can be misleading, particularly on issues that many people already don’t have good information on,” Romano said in an email.

The Church of the Apostles lists several “local mission partners” on its website including Beyond Imagination. That organization lists services including support groups and a nine-month residential program for “men and women with undesired same-sex attractions.”

“The discipleship for those seeking freedom from same-sex attractions is a difficult road,” the website for the residential program states.

NeighborHealth receives patients from Gateway and doesn’t refer people to the organization, Thompson said. The Church of Apostles provides money and volunteers to the organization and refers people to the center for medical treatment. NeighborHealth doesn’t provide money or in-kind support to its partners including Gateway and the Church of the Apostles.

Efforts to reach Gateway and the church were unsuccessful Tuesday.

‘Junk-science practice’

Several council members, including Crowder, said they learned of the connection to the other organizations after the vote.

“Last week I learned that one organization that supports the NeighborHealth Center also promotes ‘conversion therapy,’ the junk-science practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation with spiritual ‘healing,’” Crowder said. “To be clear, I completely oppose conversion therapy.”

Nonprofits must normally apply to receive city funds through the budgeting process, but Crowder asked for a one-time use of the council’s contingency funds.

“It is clear that not using the normal grant application process has resulted in a lot of confusion for the community and the city council,” Crowder said. “I truly regret that this has occurred and will join fellow city council members in rescinding the grant to the NeighborHealth Center. I want the community to know that I take their concerns and need for more information seriously.”

Normally, nonprofits asking for city money have to submit an application and prove they will comply with the city’s non-discrimination policy, be accessible to people with disabilities, and have a financial management system, among other stipulations.

NeighborHealth, which opened last year, missed the deadline to receive funds, Crowder said on May 7, adding this would be a one-time allocation. It would likely apply for city funding next year through the formal process.

“I think it is a worthwhile organization,” Crowder said. “I know we (give money to) Advance Health and they do a great job. This is a much smaller version of that serving a very underserved community.”

There are no stipulations for the city council’s contingency fund other than the decision must be approved by a majority of the city leaders.

The total fund had $100,000 at the start of the fiscal year and council has spent $5,000 for SPARKcon, $5,000 for the Hillsborough CSC 2019 University and College Town and Gown Conference and $150 for a RTA Richmond Quick Tour.

The fund will have nearly $90,000 when the council formally rescinds its vote to NeighborHealth.