Community Health Centers were first funded by the Federal Government as part of the War on Poverty in the mid-1960s. By the early 1970s, about 100 neighborhood health centers had been established to provide accessible, dignified personal health care to low income families.
Today, there are more than 1150 community health centers in the U.S. that provide family-oriented primary and preventive health care for more than 17 million people living in rural and urban medically underserved communities. Community Health Centers exist in areas where people can’t get health care because of financial, geographic, or cultural or language barriers that prevent or limit their access to primary health care.
Community Health Centers began in Wisconsin in the 1970s with a network of clinics in rural northeastern Wisconsin and the pre-paid health care program established as Family Health Center of Marshfield. Other pioneers were unique programs, like Family Health/La Clinica’s roots as a migrant worker clinic, La Clinica de los Campesinos, in Wild Rose. Still other activists were working in the state’s urban areas, fighting for health care equity in minority populated areas.
Many of Wisconsin’s current Community Health Centers pursued and achieved federally qualified Community Health Center status after serving patients for years as free clinics in their communities.
Today, Wisconsin’s 17 Community Health Centers, with 70+ sites, serve 271,222 patients. The dedicated staff of these Health Centers recognizes that health care is an essential part of life and has devoted their careers to making sure that their patients get high quality, cost-effective health care that meets their needs, beliefs, lifestyles and desires for a healthy life.