Our focus during the month of June has been to retrace the 50 year history of Community Health Centers through the lens of an individual health center. That is what brought us to Neighborhood Healthcare, an award-winning health center in southern California that is marking its 46th year of providing quality care. How did it all begin? With a lot of goodwill, one doctor, few resources and a team of volunteers at a small clinic in Escondido. In the 1970s the health center was granted nonprofit status, added dental services (on a volunteer basis) and finally acquired a new building to expand services to more people in need. From there, the dream grew.
“When I started working at Neighborhood Healthcare in 1986, there were three part-time doctors and I was the 7th employee,” recalls Tracy Ream, CEO of Neighborhood Healthcare. “The health center was located next to a migrant camp. Looking back, I remember the magic that happened when we hired a vibrant female physician from Cuba. She spoke Spanish and the patients loved her. After that, we quickly expanded services, including prenatal care and we outgrew our existing building. Growth has continued since then.”
Under Ream’s leadership, the health center has grown from one site to 10 which span two counties, San Diego and Riverside. Over 62,000 people depend on Neighborhood Healthcare for services that include medical, dental, behavioral health, health education, pharmacy and lab. The center also provides quality care (with clinical measures often exceeding national Healthy People 2020 goals) to people of all ages, from children to seniors. Neighborhood Healthcare’s patients have many faces, but the fastest growing minority population coming through Neighborhood Healthcare’s doors are families who have fled from war-torn Middle Eastern countries such as Irag and Syria.
In addition to providing care, Neighborhood Healthcare also contributes to the local economy with an annual operating budget of $50 million and as an employer of over 600 professionals.
“In September we will be opening our 11th health center in Hemet, California,” said Ream. “Our continued growth is a testament that we are as relevant now as we were when we first opened our doors with volunteer physicians. Our staff certainly finds meaning and purpose in what we do. Come visit us and you’ll find our 6th employee is still busy working at Neighborhood Healthcare as our IT Director.”
Watch the video below to learn more about how Neighborhood Healthcare changed and grew for the past 45 years.
Does your health center have a history and a story to tell? Tell and we will write about it on this blog.