Family Medicine Physician Dr. Jessica Enriquez provides a newborn check-up at the Center’s second location in the Community Facilities Building on Adams Street, circa early ’70s. Photo provided
This is the first of a four-part series exploring the history, individuals and organizations that have contributed to the success of Ohio’s First Community Health Center. The HealthCare Connection serves more than 18,000 patients annually.
The Birth of a Health Center. In 1964, a group of citizens from Lincoln Heights gathered to identify the specific needs of the community to apply for funding through President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. The program was enacted by the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and laid the foundation for many safety net programs in existence today, including community health centers.
The group identified a lack of primary health care as a priority. There were no doctors or dentists practicing in Lincoln Heights and no public transportation. Residents sought health care mostly when it was an emergency.
Through the group’s efforts and those of many others, on Oct. 8, 1967, the Lincoln Heights Health Center (LHHC) opened in a four-room apartment with a handful of volunteers, including physicians, dentists and Dolores Lindsay as volunteer receptionist. Lindsay would eventually become CEO and remains at the helm today.
Word traveled fast about the new health center, and the demand for services quickly increased. Before long, it had outgrown its space. In 1972, the Center became a tenant in the new Lincoln Heights Community Facilities Building, doubling its size.
The 1980s were lean years. Federal and state funds were diminishing and posing a threat to the Center’s financial health. Medicaid managed care entered the arena in 1985 with many unknowns about the potential impact, but the Center’s perseverance was ultimately rewarded. In 1989 the Federally Qualified Health Center program was launched, establishing cost-based Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement for community health centers and lifting the threat of financial instability.
First Neighborhood Expansion Site. The need for affordable health care in Mt. Healthy was identified when the Lincoln Heights Health Center began seeing high numbers of patients from this area. Mt. Healthy Family Practice, LHHC’s first neighborhood expansion site, opened in 1987, beginning the Center’s pursuit to bring primary health care services to communities outside of Lincoln Heights.
Second Expansion Site Opens in Forest Park. By 1990, President Bush had approved the single largest increase in funds for Head Start’s expansion. Funding guidelines required that families of children in Head Start have access to primary care. AgainAgain, reaching out to bring primary health care to communities in need, LHHC opened the Forest Park Health Center. Today it sees more than 1,700 children annually.
After 30 years of operating in the Community Facilities Building, a new facility was needed. In 2001, LHHC purchased land in the Lincoln Heights business district. Within a year, the necessary federal, state and private funding was attained, and LHHC broke ground in 2002.
A shining gem of hope and pride, the new 42,000 sq. ft. Lincoln Heights Health Center at 1401 Steffen Avenue opened on June 28, 2004. It is the largest building in Lincoln Heights and one of the largest employers as well.
In 2005, the organization changed its name to The HealthCare Connection (THCC) to better reflect its mission and affiliations within surrounding communities, and new “connections” continued. In 2007, THCC established four co-locations within behavioral health centers to provide much-needed primary care to the mentally ill. In 2013-14 THCC partnered with Princeton City Schools to keep kids healthy and in school by opening two primary care Viking School-Based Health Centers.
For five decades, The HealthCare Connection has remained steadfast in its commitment to provide quality and accessible health care to vulnerable populations in northern Hamilton County and surrounding areas. In Spring 2018, The HealthCare Connection will break ground on a much-needed larger facility in Mt. Healthy, one more example of THCC’s continuing pledge to serve as the health care safety net for any group that encounters barriers to care.
Watch for the second in a series of articles celebrating The HealthCare Connection 50th Anniversary in next week’s edition. To learn more about the 50th Anniversary Gala on Oct. 14 at the Sharonville Convention Center featuring Soul Pocket visit www.healthcare-connection.org/50th-anniversary-gala/ or call_513-483-3081.