Friend Family Health Center, Inc. (“Friend Family”) was started with the development of the Friend Family Foundation by Berman and Hannah Friend in the 1930s. Funding from the Michael Reese Health Trust allowed for building renovation to combine two of the University of Chicago Medicine’s clinical practices – the Woodlawn Infant Clinic and a clinic on the University of Chicago Medicine campus at 55th Street.
Recognizing the pivotal role federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) play in assuring access to health care in medically underserved areas where the majority of residents are disproportionately affected by the challenges of poverty, in 1997, Friend Family applied and received FQHC designation for its Cottage Grove and Western service delivery sites. After receiving FQHC designation, Friend Family expanded its clinical presence in other Chicago inner-city communities by opening two additional sites – Beethoven Health Center, a school-based health center, in 2007; Pulaski, a primary care site, in 2008.
Although these sites positioned Friend Family to increase its role as a vital source of care for residents residing on the Southeast and Southwest sides of Chicago, access barriers to health services continued to exist. Some of the barriers impeding access to care included: lack of financial resources, transportation problems, and lack of health insurance. An understanding of those longstanding access barriers sets the stage for Friend Family to open West 47th Health Center in 2009.
In 2013, West 47th Health Center was relocated to 4802 South Ashland Avenue. The Ashland location enabled Friend Family to increase medical capacity by offering a broader range of comprehensive primary health care services, referrals and other services needed to facilitate access to care, such as case management, translation, and transportation. As a result of receiving New Access Point Affordable Care Act funding, in 2015, Friend Family established a new service delivery site in the Woodlawn community area. This new site strengthens Friend Family’s ability to expand its reach and meet growing demand for services.
Today, Friend Family operates six service delivery sites and serves over 30,000 patients on an annual basis. Friend Family is also recognized as a Patient-Centered Medical Home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance. Receiving this recognition demonstrates Friend Family’s commitment to improving the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of health care delivery.
Although Friend Family has grown significantly, both in number of service delivery sites and patients, since opening its doors in 1997, in the most fundamental ways, Friend Family remains true to its founding philosophy – to provide more medically underserved and low-income individuals and families access to high quality health services while alleviating disparities in health care outcomes.