Government funding cuts and uncertain times for private philanthropy have combined to force the planned closing of New Leaf, a San Francisco behavioral health agency specializing in services for the gay and lesbian community. But New Leaf’s imprint will remain noticeable long after its mid-October departure, particularly at the many nonprofit agencies where staff members once received training as New Leaf interns.
“We trained thousands of clinicians to work with the LGBT community,” says Thom Lynch, who became interim director of New Leaf 10 months ago.
Two years of budget cuts from the city and county of San Francisco, in combination with challenges to maintain needed levels of private fundraising, led to the decision to close New Leaf after 35 years of operation. The organization, which offers both addiction and mental health services, is in the process of ensuring continuity of care for its clients by parceling out its various programs to other service agencies.
Lynch believes ongoing funding uncertainties make this a good time for human-services organizations to consider mergers and other consolidation arrangements, although factors such as New Leaf’s debt and union contract obligations made such a move impossible for his agency.
“People need to look into becoming leaner machines,” Lynch says. “We probably need a few less executive directors, boards and development directors.”
He adds that with so many nonprofit agencies in the San Francisco area, private donors feel challenged in terms of what causes they can reasonably support. “Donors are overwhelmed by the number of requests they receive,” he says.
New Leaf is working closely with local government leaders to ensure that the public dollars that supported its programs remain in the community, Lynch says.
The agency has seen numerous changes in the human-services arena, having been founded at a time when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) still formally considered homosexuality to be an illness. Lynch says that with many LGBT organizations now funneling their dollars to political causes such as marriage equality, it is a precarious time for agencies that specialize in human services and supports for this population.