Throughout June we are marking the 50th anniversary of the Community Health Center Movement by focusing on the theme of “How Far We Have Come.” A movement and mission often start with a story about people coming together around a common, simple goal, and building something beyond their wildest dreams. Such a story brought us to Cornelius, Ore, where Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center (VGMHC) began in the unlikeliest of all places — a three car garage. But where VGMHC started to provide care is not as important as why: the death of a child that could have been prevented with timely access to care. In 1975, beautiful six-year old Virginia Garcia and her farmworker parents traveled from their home in Mission, Texas to California and Oregon to work in the fields. Along the way Virginia cut her foot, and by the time they reached Oregon it had become infected. Economic, language and cultural barriers to healthcare, prevented her family from seeking care when they desperately needed it. Virginia died on Father’s Day while her own father was working in the fields. Determined to never let such a tragedy happen again, the community built a healthcare home for people in need, including migrant seasonal farmworkers. Not only has VGMHC endured over the years, but the health center is also cutting edge when it comes to healthcare delivery.
VGMHC has 16 sites, including a brand new Wellness Center that is state-of-the-art, with a parking lot that has charging stations for hybrid cars. The health center now serves 40, 000 patients, more than half of which live in poverty. Nineteen percent of their patients are still migrant or seasonal farmworkers, and nearly half are under 21 years of age. Yet, VGMHC is a fully integrated Patient Centered Medical/Health Home that provides excellent healthcare services to the insured and uninsured alike.
“Virginia Garcia is here to provide the best care to those who need it most,” said CEO Gil Munoz. “We at Virginia Garcia are not only keeping up with the innovations in healthcare today, but we’re also becoming the model for care. We are finding new ways every day to help keep our patients healthy, including new payment methodologies, team-based care and wellness classes. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come!”
Not only has the health center come a long way, so has VGMHC staffer Maria Loredo, who was recently honored with the Legacy Award by the Northwest Regional Primary Care Association’s Legacy Award for her career of service to the most underserved populations. The Legacy award is for an individual who has dedicated his or her career to solving the problems of health, poverty and human rights and who has contributed toward the mission and recognition of community and migrant health centers in the Northwest region. Maria herself came to Oregon as the child of migrant farmworker parents and earned a college degree. At VGMHC she started with medical records and worked her way up to become Chief Operating Officer of the health center.
Please send us your stories about how far your health center has come and we’ll write about it on this blog and share it on social media using the #CHC50 hashtag.