City officials promise that a new, federally funded community health center will bring affordable services to the Evanston area without drawing on local tax dollars.
Funded by a $650,000 annual grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Erie Family Health Center will expand its Chicago-based network of community health centers to Evanston, according Evanston Health Department Director Evonda Thomas.
“This is the best response possible to the unmet health needs of the residents of the city of Evanston and surrounding communities,” Thomas said in a press release.
The U.S. Department of Health announced the grant last week, which is part of a larger program under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that will fund some 219 community health centers around the country with a total of $128.6 million. The expansion of Erie Family Health Center is one of 11 programs funded in Illinois.
“There is a need for affordable health care in Evanston and Skokie and the surrounding communities, and we look forward to the opportunity to serve patients and provide them with high-quality care,” Erie President and CEO Lee Francis said in the release.
Erie Family Health Center has operated in Chicago since 1957, and currently serves approximately 37,500 patients per year at three primary care centers, a teen health center, five school-based health centers and two oral health centers. In Evanston, Erie plans to provide several different services under one roof.
Those offerings will include primary care for children and adults, urgent care, family planning, oral health care, health education programs and individual therapy and counseling, according to Thomas. The health center will employ eight doctors and two dentists; Erie and the city of Evanston are still determining where it will be located.
The city of Evanston first applied for a grant for a federally qualified health care center—defined as a health provider that targets underserved communities—two years ago, Thomas said. The application was rejected, but the U.S. Department of Health said that Evanston might have a chance in the second round of funding, when Erie submitted an application to operate in Evanston.
“Erie feels like, with this federal support, that this clinic will be sustainable in our community, and they’re excited to come to Evanston,” Thomas said.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that the grant was appealing in large part because it would allow the city to serve citizens who might not otherwise be able to afford health care without requiring local funds.
“This center’s not predicated on city of Evanston direct funding, and we plan to continue to go down that road,” Bobkiewicz said.