Family Health Center was established in 1972 by the city of Worcester and Main South residents who had been receiving care at Worcester City Hospital.
In 1970, the City of Worcester created a Model Cities project to look at health issues faced by downtown Worcester residents. (Some of you will remember that we called our neighborhood “the inner city” back in the early 70s.) The City’s project followed 25 families who used Worcester City Hospital services. The Worcester Department of Public Health worked with these 25 families to coordinate comprehensive health care which included lead paint testing and rodent control. At the end of the year, the 25 families talked about what they wanted for health services and they said, “We want one doctor who will take care of all the members of our family. We want a family doctor.”
With the help of the City of Worcester, through the support of the Model Cities program, “Family Health and Social Services Center” was incorporated in 1972. As a part of the Model Cities program, for many years, the Worcester City Manager appointed a portion of Family Health Center’s Board of Directors. In 1974, the then brand new University of Massachusetts Medical School established Family Health as one of three family medicine residency training sites. Since that time, hundreds of family medicine physicians have trained at Family Health.
From 1991 to 1995, Family Health renovated three floors of the hospital and moved all health center services to our new home at 26 Queen Street. “Legacy” Worcester City Hospital programs included extensive lab and radiology programs and our urgent care center which is located in the former Worcester City Hospital Emergency Room space.
From our annual report in 1995: “In the fall of 1995, after more than four years of intensive planning, design and construction work, Family Health and Social Services Center held an open house to celebrate the opening of our new, state of the art, primary care facility at 26 Queen Street. This impressively renovated space located in the first three floors of the West building in the former Worcester City Hospital complex represents an important new chapter in the provision of health care services for Worcester residents.”
Subsequent UMass Medical School studies have revealed that half of Family Health’s residency graduates remain in the Commonwealth and half of the graduates continue to work with underserved populations; perhaps not surprisingly, this is a higher level of commitment to the underserved than seen at the other UMass residency sites.
In 1991, Worcester City Hospital closed its doors. Family Health Center immediately began to care for the former City Hospital patients right there in City Hospital’s building.
Before the move to 26 Queen Street in 1991, 65 Family Health employees cared for 6,500 patients. After we began services on this campus, our staff doubled overnight to 130 and our patients also doubled to nearly 13,000.
In 1994, our collaboration with the City of Worcester ceded the operations of the City’s first school health center at South High Community School to Family Health Center.
In 1995, we opened the second school health center at Sullivan Middle School. Today, we operate 6 school health centers in Worcester’s public schools at Woodland and Claremont Academies, Doherty Memorial High School, Elm Park Community School, Goddard School of Science and Technology/University Park Campus School, South High Community School, and Dr. Arthur Sullivan Middle School. We provide comprehensive health services at the schools, including for the first time this year, integrated behavioral health services.
Now, in 2016, we have doubled our size again through a successful $9.27 million capital campaign, and with the incredible support of many local foundations and state and federal partners, we have renovated and expanded our services at 26 Queen Street. We provided medical and dental care for 27,260 last year and WIC nutrition services for nearly 8,000 women and children.
We grew in medical patients and visits by 21.6%, dental patients and visits by 24.6% and by 13.3% in our pharmacy prescriptions. Although we provided services for 35,000 individuals from more than 100 communities in Massachusetts, Northeast Connecticut, and Rhode Island, 82% of our patients still reside in the City of Worcester. Each year, this building hosts nearly 130,000 health care visits and fills over 148,971 prescriptions. For the first time ever, this included 3,072 vision exams and 1,516 pairs of prescription glasses through the new vision service in partnership with MCPHS University.
In 2016, we replaced the 4 remaining dental chairs and equipment (out of our total of 14) whose age went back to the Worcester City Hospital era. At our new Southbridge locations, we expanded family medicine in Southbridge and provided 1,919 medical visits for over 900 patients. We also renovated and opened a second location to open a new family dental services sit in Southbridge where we have provided 700 dental patients with 1,700 dental visits.
We achieved PCMH Level 3 recognition and hosted multiple successful federal, state and local site visits from our funders. We recently received quality awards from the Bureau of Primary Health Care, Health Resource Service Administration in the federal Department of Health and Human Services for exceeding national standards and improvements made on various clinical quality indicators and expanding the number of patients for whom we provided care. None of this could have been done without the support of our community.