Erie Family Health Center, a provider of high quality health services to underserved communities, has opened the doors to its new state-of-the-art health center in Lake County, Erie HealthReach Waukegan Health Center.
Located at 2323 Grand Avenue, the 25,000-square foot facility houses 24 exam rooms and five dental suites and will grow to provide over 44,000 patient visits annually. The new center serves as a powerful catalyst for improving the health and well-being of residents of Waukegan and surrounding Lake County communities including Beach Park, North Chicago, Park City, Zion, and Mundelein offering high-quality health care for thousands of residents who previously lacked access to affordable care.
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"As a leader in community-based health initiatives, we are at the forefront of delivering patient-focused care while lowering costs and improving health outcomes. For more than half of century, Erie Family Health Center has been in the communities where we are needed most," said Lee Francis, MD, MPH, President and CEO of Erie Family Health Center. "With the low-income population in Greater Waukegan growing, it's imperative that we help fill this gap by providing affordable health care."
At the new health center, a highly trained team of bi-lingual (Spanish/English) medical and dental health professionals provides comprehensive primary care, including prenatal care, pediatrics, women's health, adult and senior medical care, as well as chronic disease management and dental care for children and pregnant women. Erie also plans to add behavioral health, health education and other services in future years. Established Erie patients will also have access to low-cost medications at participating pharmacies.
Erie HealthReach Waukegan Health Center is Erie's 13th health center and the second outside of Chicago. The new center, like Erie's other locations, will be a portal to care and a higher quality of life for community residents, regardless of their ability to pay.
The Critical Need for the Health Center
There is a significant and growing need for affordable high-quality health care services for Waukegan and surrounding Lake County communities. While the population in Chicago has declined over the past 10 years, the population in the far north suburbs has exploded, especially among low-income minorities. Waukegan-area residents face some of the similar challenges as Chicago residents in accessing health care, but they have far fewer options for affordable care.
Sixteen percent of Waukegan residents live at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level, compared
To 6 percent of the rest of Lake County residents. Poverty and unemployment are significantly higher in Waukegan than in the rest of Lake County and disproportionately affect minority residents in these communities. Executive Director Ernest Vasseur of the Healthcare Foundation of Lake County stated that the Foundation is "confident and grateful that Erie's expansion into Lake County will improve access to critically needed medical, dental and mental health services in this underserved area of the county."
Building a Healthier Community
Critical to the success of making this health center a reality was the partnership and vision of civic, medical and community leaders. This spirit of collaboration is rooted in a common commitment to innovative leadership, fiscal responsibility and improved services.
To address the needs of the Lake County community, Erie has joined forces with and absorbed the operations of HealthReach, a volunteer-run free clinic with a proven track record of providing quality primary, specialty and dental care. Northwestern Medicine helped facilitate the merger of Erie and HealthReach and is providing more than $3 million in operational grants to Erie HealthReach Waukegan over a five year period. Additionally, Erie HealthReach Waukegan will train family medicine residents as a partner in Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital's new Family Medicine Residency Program that will begin July 2015.
"Northwestern Medicine's commitment to Erie HealthReach Waukegan is part of its overall commitment to support quality medical homes that offer primary care and social services to underserved patients," said Thomas J. McAfee, president of Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital. "There continues to be a need for more primary care services in Lake County, especially given the newly insured patients in the County. Erie HealthReach and the Northwestern Family Medicine Residency Program will help address this need."
The philanthropic and business community has responded generously in support of the health center. Early, lead supporters of the project include Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation (ILCHF), Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County and North Shore Gas. "The Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation is proud to support the new dental clinic at the Erie HealthReach Waukegan Health Center and help ensure that all children receive the oral health care they need to grow up healthy," said Heather Higgins Alderman, President of ILCHF. She added that it is the Foundation's vision for "all children to have access to quality oral health services in their communities" and for there to be "a new culture of awareness throughout the state about the interconnection of oral health and overall health."
Mark Kinzle, General Manager of North Shore Gas, is honored that the company had the opportunity to play such a crucial role extending health services to the underserved in the community. "North Shore Gas is pleased to support the new Erie HealthReach center opening in Waukegan which will support the healthcare needs in Lake County," said Kinzle.
The project also received a $4.06 million capital grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Affordable Care Act as well as support through New Markets Tax Credits and traditional loan products offered by Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., Enterprise Community Loan Fund, and Chase.
Economic growth for the community
In addition to providing essential medical services to community residents, the new health center will also provide economic benefits to Lake County and the Waukegan area. At full capacity, Erie HealthReach Waukegan will employ 40 people.
"Erie's mission goes beyond expanding access to quality health care services to Lake County to also investing in the lives of people in the community. Our health centers are local economic engines, generating economic activity that improves the quality of life in the neighborhoods we serve," according to Francis.
Quality Healthcare for the Whole Community
Patients will receive care regardless of where they live, immigration status, insurance status, age or ability to pay. Once the site is fully developed, Erie estimates the new health center will provide care for about 12,000 patients through more than 44,000 annual patient visits.
Erie will also partner with hospitals such as Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, and Vista Health System and others to provide patients with diagnostic and specialty services such as mammograms and cardiology services.
To make an appointment at the health center call 847-666-3494.
About Erie Family Health Center
Founded on Erie Street in Chicago in 1957, Erie Family Health Center is a community health center that provides high-quality, compassionate health care services. Serving more than 52,000 medical and 9,500 dental patients via more than 200,000 patient visits at 13 centers throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, Erie delivers comprehensive, culturally-competent, primary medical, dental and behavioral health care that responds to the needs of each community. Erie's highly skilled providers, innovative partnerships and forward-thinking approach make it a national leader for the provision of community-based health care. For more information about Erie Family Health Center call 312-432-7414 or visit www.eriefamilyhealth.org.