Howard Brown Health hosted the grand opening of Howard Brown Health Clark, its Far North Side facility Dec. 5, at 6500 N. Clark St.
The event was host to several local politicians, among them U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Alds. Carlos Rosa, Harry Osterman, Raymond Lopez and Joe Moore.
The 15,000-square-foot facility, which officials say will serve about 6,000 patients a year. Remaining in the back portion of the second floor will be Gerber/Hart Library and Archives, which moved there in 2013. Howard Brown Health purchased the building in August, 2016; total cost of the project, including the building purchase, was about $6 million, according to HBH President and CEO David Ernesto Munar.
The two-story building also now includes a Walgreens pharmacy on the first floor, HBH's call center, many offices and clinic rooms, and an outdoor parking lot. There are community rooms that can be used by partner agencies, including a large training room. The clinic hopes to eventually add dental services.
"So much love has been poured into this project and so much good work is going to happen here," said Munar. "People are going to remember this site for generations to come."
Board Chair Duke Alden said that the expansion was "long overdue. We serve tens of thousands of patients across the Chicagoland area," and noted that that number had increased significantly with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act ( ACA ).
Durbin recalled U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders demanding that the ACA include about a billion dollars for Federally Qualified Health Centers ( FQHC ) and said that those had "revolutionized the delivery of healthcare." Howard Brown Health received the FQHC designation last year, allowing the organization to qualify for many additional grants and funding streams.
Indeed, the new clinic is the latest in an aggressive expansion throughout 2016. The organization opened a facility on the South Side and plans a new space for its Broadway Youth Center drop-in in Uptown, scheduled to open in early 2017.
Gerber/Hart Treasurer Don Friedman said that the library, which was given an additional gallery and will curate exhibits in some of the public spaces, looks forward to "an enriching partnership of wellness and culture" with Howard Brown Health.
Four exam rooms have been in operation since December 2015. Megan Drilling, who was Howard Brown Health's owner's representative during the construction, said that a number of considerations were made with respect for the ages of potential patients, which are expected to skew slightly higher in the new location. Those considerations included wheelchair scales and barrier-free exam rooms, for example.
"We did those with the older generations in mind," Drilling said.
Howard Brown Health owes much of its expansion to the implementation of the ACA, setting the organization up for numerous hurdles in the months ahead as the law's tenets are sure to be challenged by hostile politicians looking to dismantle ACA and its accompanying Medicaid expansion. Munar said in a Nov. 28 public meeting that about 7,000 Howard Brown patients have benefitted from that expansion.
Both Durbin and Schakowsky pledged to keep fighting for the ACA at the Dec. 5 opening.
"We reduced the uninsured in Illinois by 49 percent under Obamacare," Durbin said. "Every single American is entitled to an opportunity for quality healthcare."
Schakowsky added, "I am enlisting you as part of the resistance to make sure that this [dismantling] doesn't happen."
Munar noted that the Rogers Park clinic represented a continuing effort to take the organization beyond the boundaries of Lakeview, an effort characterized by a holistic concern for the patient. "We want to embrace the 'whole person,' he said.
Before the ceremonial ribbon was cut, Dr. Magda Houlberg, Chief Clinical Officer at HBH, also addressed the crowd, which included dozens of staff, HBH board, and community leaders.