Since 1996, Catherine’s Health Center (CHC) has been providing medical care to those in need. A long history of selfless giving was inspired by Catherine McAuley, an Irish nun, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, after whom the clinic is named.
Neighborhood organizers began discussions and dreams of a health clinic in northeast Grand Rapids in 1993, prompted by concerns over access, resource-challenged neighbors, and the working poor. The closure of the Kent County Health Department’s Creston Neighborhood Well-Child Clinic gave added urgency and a new partnership was born. In 1996 St. Mary’s Hospital, St. Alphonsus Parish, and the Creston Neighborhood Association established Catherine’s Care Center to provide health care for those people who were left without and who could not find a primary care physician.
For the first few years Catherine’s was a nurse-run clinic offering immunizations, health education, and free screenings for children. Saint Mary’s provided intermittent physician support.
As the health care needs of the community grew, it was increasingly clear that Catherine’s would need to grow to meet the needs. In 2000, Catherine’s offered her first regularly-scheduled physician appointments for free medical services. In 2005, Catherine’s Care Center was incorporated and in 2007 the IRS determined it qualified as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
As the uninsured population grew in our community, Catherine’s began to experience overcrowding. In response to turning away as many as 30 patients each day the Opening Doors capacity-building campaign was initiated in 2009 to raise funds for moving out of the church’s basement and into a larger space. At that time, a name change from “Catherine’s Care Center” to the current “Catherine’s Health Center” clarified the identity and focus of the clinic.
In January of 2011, after much hard work, dedication, and generous support from donors and volunteers, Catherine’s $1.275 million “Opening Doors Campaign” proved successful, exceeding the campaign goal. Relocating from its original basement quarters to a Gold LEED® certified, renovated section of the former St. Alphonsus School, Catherine’s expanded its space nearly six-fold. Benefiting from updated and expanded facilities, Catherine’s has been able to develop new office practices, bring on more volunteers, accept new patients, increase programing capacity and add eye-care to its list of services offered.
Once a health clinic open only a couple of afternoons each week, Catherine’s Health Center currently provides MD (Medical Doctor), NP (Nurse Practitioner), and PA (Physician Assistant) services 5 days a week. With a growing staff and volunteer base, Catherine’s continues to work diligently to provide free and low-cost medical services, completing more than 7,000 patient contacts each year, and growing.
Anticipating the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, Catherine’s has actively planned and positioned itself to continue meeting the needs of low-income, disenfranchised people by participating actively with the navigator program and by preparing to partner with select third-party payers.
Catherine’s continues to rely on the generosity of the community to assure health care for some of its most vulnerable residents. We steward funds carefully and value our network of relationships with community organizations that offer education, support, and other health-related services.