Woodlawn and South Side residents will soon have access to an array of new physical and mental health care options with the opening of a new, $43 million health center.
Touted as a one-stop shop for preventive and primary care, the Friend Health Woodlawn Center’s opening is a key step in changing a series of troubling South Side life expectancy statistics, organization leaders said.
The center, operated by Friend Family Health Center, will serve 35,000 patients annually and help counteract decades of disinvestment in Chicago’s South Side, partners said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.
“We’re here to celebrate the opening of a new health care center in a medically underserved area,” said Leon Walker, managing partner of DL3, which handled the building renovation. “This is primary care. This is where you come when you’re not wanting to go to a hospital, but you still need someone to take a look at you and give you some advice and some suggestions on how you can live better and be healthy. This is about life and how we live and the quality of life that we live.”
The center at 6250 S. Cottage Grove Ave. expects to open at the end of July or in early August.
The building sits next to the Green Line’s Cottage Grove stop. Friend Family Health commissioned local artist Rahmaan Statik Barnes to paint a mural on the side of the building, emblazoned colorfully with “living legends” from the area.
The Woodlawn Center will offer primary care for all ages, as well as dental, mental health and substance use services. Friend Health CEO Verneda Bachus said no patient will be turned away for a lack of insurance or money. Some patients’ charges will be adjusted based on their income and family size.
The facility, which includes an in-house pharmacy, is the seventh and largest of Friend Family Health’s centers and will employ 275 people. Bachus said staff members and doctors would receive cultural sensitivity training.
“This is a day that will change the future of Woodlawn because it will change thousands of lives on the South Side of Chicago,” Bachus said. “Because of the brand new Woodlawn Health Center, residents of this community will have improved access to high-quality primary care services, offering opportunities to build meaningful relationships with primary care physicians and providers who deliver culturally appropriate care while encouraging healthy lifestyles.”
Sean Harden, chairman at Friend Health, said that Woodlawn residents have gone “too long” without access to quality health care. The neighborhood largely lacks medical centers, as well as hospitals, with most being found near or at the University of Chicago, just north of the neighborhood.
Harden said a lack of health care options has contributed to poor health outcomes. Woodlawn residents have a life expectancy of 65 years, while residents in neighborhoods like Lincoln Park are expected to live into their 80s.
“These services are literal lifelines 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 to have access to quality health care,” Harden said.
Mariah Rush is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.