UW Sunday Column 8-10-14: Local health center among nation’s successful facilities

Heather Burton
As originally published in the State Journal-Register, Our Towns section

H Burton

Central Counties Health Centers began as a small clinic of volunteer doctors who came together in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Springfield to provide free health care to those in need. The care was offered intermittently at first, but soon the demand far exceeded the capacity those few volunteer doctors could provide.

In 1997, a not-for-profit organization was formed named “Healthy Springfield 2000” with the mission to increase access to health care for the uninsured and underinsured individuals of Springfield.

The need for health care continued to grow, and in 1999, Healthy Springfield 2000 was funded as Springfield’s first federally qualified health center and opened its practice in a small clinic on the east side of Springfield.

Today, known as Central Counties Health Centers, we have grown to provide more than 15,000 patients each year with quality, affordable medical and dental care.

But Central Counties Health Centers is not content with merely being the largest provider of primary health care and dental health care to the uninsured and underinsured people of our community. It is looking to the future and developing programs and services to better meet the growing needs of those we serve.

If you drive by our facility on East Cook Street, you might notice the construction zone in our west parking lot.

Later this fall will mark the grand opening of the new wing at Central Counties Health Centers, one which will add 13 new exam rooms and an on-site pharmacy. In addition, there will be an all-purpose room that will be used to provide patient education programs and will be available for use by other community organizations and groups. We are also working with other nearby communities to provide our services in those areas.

As the new chief executive officer of Central Counties, my vision is to continue to provide primary health care and dental care to those most in need in the traditional ways but also in new and exciting ways, ways that will break down barriers to care and improve the health outcomes of those we serve.

Not only is Central Counties Health Centers the longest-standing community health center in the area, but it is also highly integrated into the community safety net of those we serve.

Many of the social service agencies here in Springfield serve the same families, and by keeping open lines of communication and working together, we can ensure our families have access to not only health care, but food, shelter, quality after-school programming and counseling or mental health services.

Central Counties Health Centers works with agencies on a daily basis that provide these and other much-needed services to the same families we serve. Central Counties knows that being healthy is only a small part of the overall well-being of each individual in the community, and together we can help to break the cycle of poverty and improve the community as a whole.

Please join me and all the staff and patients here in celebrating the success of not only Central Counties Health Centers over the years but the 1,200 health centers across the country that provide a medical home for more than 2.2 million people nationwide.

Heather Burton is the president and chief executive officer of Central Counties Health Centers. Look for United Way columns weekly in Our Towns.

Read the column as originally published in the SJ-R: http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140810/News/140819988