Providing for the providers

November 7, 2009

During our 10 days in Louisiana, we interviewed several blues and R&B musicians who talked about the critical importance of the New Orleans Musicians Clinic. Founded in 1998, the clinic provides comprehensive health care to the city’s musicians, who suffer disproportionately from poor health and premature death. The clinic offers everything from blood-pressure checks to cancer treatment, and it also has a Gig Fund to help keep musicians employed.

These are tough times for the clinic. Reports New Orleans City Business:

The Musicians Clinic received a three-year $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Hospitals in 2007. The money allowed the clinic to provide mental health services in addition to paying for costly surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, and it freed up other funds for the paid gig program.

But with the sunset of the federal funds on the horizon and no other sources of money emerging, musicians may once again be left without critical health care services.

In September the clinic will receive its last federal payment of $500,000, which covers the remaining 14 months of the grant. And that is nowhere near enough to cover its current level of services, [director Bethany] Bultman said.

Bultman, of course, is working overtime to keep the clinic operating at full throttle. The clinic’s web site offers several ways to support its work, including a benefit CD called Get You A Healin’, featuring musicians like Dr. John, the Funky Meters, Irma Thomas, and Allen Toussaint. This month, Offbeat magazine quoted Bultman as saying:

“We must make a leap of faith that local banks, businesses and private foundations are going to begin viewing our local musicians as a natural resource that must be protected. In the meantime, our board and staff are expanding our network of pro bono providers and are writing grants night and day. All we ask from musicians is that they come in to the NOMC for check-ups, take their medications and stay healthy.”

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