After 25 years in Hyde Park, Friend Health opens its new headquarters and flagship medical clinic in Woodlawn. Located at the corner of Cottage Grove Avenue and 63rd Street, Friend Health’s new facility is expected to alleviate the severe shortage of healthcare providers in the area when it officially opens in late July.
At the facility’s July 8 grand opening, Friend Health CEO Verneda Bachus said the $43 million clinic will provide comprehensive primary care: family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, pediatrics and pharmacy. Mammograms and ultrasounds will begin to be offered, as well as a clinic for same-day needs.
“This is a day that will change the future of Woodlawn because it will change thousands of lives on Chicago’s South Side,” Bachus said. She added that Friend Health intends the facility to serve as “a hub for community wellness…a place where people from Woodlawn and the South Side of Chicago come, not just for treatment, but to maintain and support healthy lifestyles”.
Bachus estimates that the new clinic will serve 35,000 patients a year. Friend Health is also a Federally Qualified Health Center, which means it receives federal funding and must provide affordable treatment regardless of insurance, financial, or immigration status.
At Friday’s groundbreaking, Friend Health Board Chairman Sean Harden – a longtime South Sider – testified that residents of Woodlawn have long had no access to quality health care. He said this lack of access has contributed to poorer health outcomes compared to neighboring communities.
“There is a study that suggests that a few miles north of here, your life expectancy is 85 years. But for my residents, their life expectancy is 75 years,” Harden said. ” This can not go on. And today marks the first step in changing those statistics.
In addition to expanding access to health care, Harden said the facility is expected to create 250 new permanent jobs.
After the project at 6250 S. Cottage Grove Ave. was first announced in May 2020, Friend Health applied for and received $8 million in tax increment funding. (TIF) money for its development. In July 2021, U.S. Representative Bobby Rush (D-1st) also requested and received $250,000 for the project through the appropriations process.
Rep. Rush also attended the event, along with Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Aldus. Jeanette Taylor (20th) who insisted on community involvement throughout the development of the project, was unable to attend due to illness.
“For too long, communities like Woodlawn have been left destitute… There should never be a time in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, when the life expectancy for black people in our city is 10 years lower. than any other demographic,” says Lightfoot. “With the official opening of Friend Health’s Woodlawn Health Center, residents of Woodlawn and others in surrounding communities will finally receive the local access to lifesaving healthcare they have always deserved and needed.”
Lightfoot added that the $43 million center was also rewarded with a $2.5 million Chicago Community Development Grant in May this year, a development grant as part of the city’s Covid-19 economic stimulus plan.
The project developer, DL3 Realty, has been a key player in the development of the corner at 63rd and Cottage Grove over the past few years. DL3 Realty managing partner Leon Walker said at Friday’s grand opening that the development of Friend Health was part of the company’s “four-corner strategy” to revitalize the area.
Walker said the team is now moving on to build the second phase of its medical campus: a new 15,000-square-foot annex building across the street, which will be completed in the fall of 2022. This second building will house parking, retail and a dental practice. suite for adults and children, serving Medicaid, Medicare, uninsured and commercial patients.
Friend Health was founded in 1997 by the merger of two University of Chicago clinics. It currently operates six locations in South Chicago, including Back of the Yards, Gage Park/West Englewood, Hyde Park/Washington Park, Woodlawn, West Elsdon, and a school health center in Bronzeville. The low-income provider serves about 47,000 patients a year at these clinics, 96% of whom are black or Hispanic, while about three-quarters live below the poverty line.
“These services are a real lifeline for individuals and families, regardless of their ability to pay, their immigration status, whether or not they have insurance; none of that matters because we all deserve access to quality health care,” Harden said. “Whether it’s responding to critical lifesaving interventions, annual health checks or preventive care, it will all be there for everyone to benefit from.”