June 7, 2017—at 6pm, to be exact—will mark the 50th anniversary of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic's first moments serving the public.
The hour also kicks off a celebration unveiling a new mural and historic plaque that honors the clinic and its founder, Dr. David Smith. The first of its kind, the Haight Free Clinic—currently operating out of its first location, 558 Clayton St.—launched a movement towards accessible, democratic, free health care.
The Free Clinic—like Huckleberry House and the now-defunct Switchboard—is one of several free service providers that grew out of necessity to help the thousands of people flocking to the neighborhood during the Summer of Love.
A recent NPR piece highlighted its origins as a no-budget provider of mental health services, antibiotics, a quiet room during a bad LSD trip, and resurrection from an overdose—it provided the latter service to Janis Joplin.
Bob Student, a clinic employee who's worked with Dr. Smith for more than 20 years, said the installation, which includes a carved wooden panel and plaques honoring Dr. Smith and the clinic, is flying under the clinic's longtime mantra: "Healthcare is a right, not a privilege."
The installation is going up at one of the clinic's former service locations, a former recovery and maternal care unit located near Haight and Cole.
Called The Bill Graham Center for Health and Recovery, Student said the facility opened two years after the Clayton St. office. Graham, a legendary concert promoter, was one of the clinic's greatest benefactors and hosted rock shows to support its work.
Student said the invitation-only party will begin at Haight and Cole, retire to Love On Haight (1400 Haight St.), and end up eventually at the clinic, for as long as people wanted to keep going.
"It's all the original people" from the clinic, Student said, so "we'll see who can last three hours."