Community Health Centers (CHC) improves the health of ALL within the communities we serve.
In 1971, the People’s Free Clinic opened in a tiny storefront in Burlington’s Old North End. Announcing “a new kind of health care,” the People’s Free Clinic founders envisioned a mission that would make a resonating statement: every person—regardless of age, race, class, or gender—deserves good medical care despite their ability to pay.
Staffed entirely by volunteers—including two local physicians—the small clinic saw 50 people per week by the end of the following year, often treating minor wounds, providing health information, and sick visits. Soon, the clinic would strengthen its commitment to grow, and become the Community Health Centers of Burlington (CHCB).
CHCB was officially awarded the federal status of a Healthcare for the Homeless Program grantee in 1989 and today remains the only organization in Vermont with this designation, ensuring completely free access to health care for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. CHCB was then designated Vermont’s second Federally Qualified Health Center, allowing for additional support and enabling services such as social work and financial assistance. The success of this model was demonstrated with the outpouring of community support in 2001 that enabled CHCB to create its 10,000 square foot flagship main facility on Riverside Avenue.
CHCB opened the Pearl Street Youth Health Center in 2004, Vermont’s only medical site designed for homeless and at-risk youth. That same year, our Safe Harbor Health Center, serving homeless adults and families, expanded to a new two exam room facility, offering primary and preventive health care, dental care, mental health and substance abuse counseling and Housing First, a supportive housing program for homeless patients with chronic medical conditions.
By 2004, a dental program incorporated into the main CHCB site, now serving almost 8,000 patients, including 800 uninsured and/or low-income children at our School-Based Dental Center.
In 2012, CHCB saw tremendous growth through the newly-renovated Riverside Health Center, allowing for more patients to make CHCB their Health Care Home. The new Riverside Health Center allowed for increased programs and services, notably integrated psychiatry and counseling and treatment assistance for patients struggling with drug/alcohol use disorders.
During that same year, CHCB established our first rural practice in Grand Isle County, ensuring access to care for three surrounding towns after the sole physician in the area retired. This practice transitioned to a new site in South Hero in November 2016, operating as the newly re-named Champlain Islands Health Center and expanded access to care even further for residents of southern Grand Isle County.
2016 also saw the addition of Burlington Primary Care, since re-named the South End Health Center, and welcomed GoodHEALTH Internal Medicine in South Burlington to the CHCB family. The following year, the South End Health Center added a dental center, transferring operatories from the Safe Harbor Health Center.
Throughout the year, CHCB continued working with community partners on the permanent housing program at Beacon Apartments. CHCB also began operating Burlington’s only low-barrier shelter in 2016, providing a safe space and care management for the local homeless population. We continued to oversee operations of this seasonal shelter through June of 2019. The only low-barrier shelter in the greater Burlington area, this model was designed to engage with guests and develop the trusting relationships and connections to long-term services needed to lift them permanently out of homelessness.
Winooski Family Health joined CHCB as our eighth location in May 2017. Located in our Medically Underserved Area, this partnership extends the Federally Qualified Health Center services to their patient base while uniting our already-aligned missions of care.
In 2022, we rebranded! Recognizing that over half the CHCB locations were now outside of Burlington, we removed the “B” from our name, and became the Community Health Centers, or CHC.
CHC’s story is one of continued growth, now caring for over 32,000 patients, but the pace of that growth has accelerated rapidly as community need continues to grow and as community members and partners look to us to do what we do best – provide affordable, quality health care to all who need it, regardless of financial status or life circumstance. Together with our community, we look forward to many more decades of careful stewardship of our remarkable mission.
- We will be a model of excellence in providing innovative health care services.
- We will be a leader in comprehensive and fully-integrated health care that is responsive to the physical, cultural, emotional, spiritual, and social needs of our patients.
- We will be responsible financial stewards by maximizing our resources and community relationships.
- Equity: Quality health care is a basic human right. Equity exists when all people have a fair and just opportunity to be healthy.
- Excellence: All people deserve exceptional integrated care with compassion, regardless of economic status or life circumstance.
- Team: The well-being of our staff is essential to our mission.
- Engagement: People are supported in determining and achieving their health goals.
- Accountability: Health care services are responsive to the needs of our patients and community.
- Collaboration: Healthy communities are created when the unique perspectives and strengths of patients, staff, and community partners come together.
Our Respect for All
CHC is a community leader in cultural sensitivity. We strive to take a holistic approach to health care inclusive of our patients’ cultural beliefs and practices. CHC recognizes and appreciates the rich diversity that our patients and staff contribute to our community. As a mission-focused organization grounded in a commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, we reject hate in all of its manifestations. We always have, and always will, welcome and respect all individuals regardless of their gender, religion, financial or life circumstances, ethnic background, sexual orientation, age, or language.