Pioneer Community Health Center Prepares for the Future with Expansion
The United States’ first rural Community Health Center -- Delta Health Center (DHC), Inc., in Mound Bayou, MS -- just broke ground on a new 26,000 square foot facility that will provide care to medically underserved families. The new health center facility is named after its founder Dr. H. Jack Geiger, who, along with Dr. Count Gibson, helped establish Delta as a demonstration project in the mid-1960s as part of the “War on Poverty.” President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964, which provided funds to establish two health centers – the first urban neighborhood health center in Boston, MA, and the first rural health center in Mound Bayou. Dr. Geiger was among those pioneers who were dedicated to improving the lives of medically underserved people -- helping to launch the national program now known as Community Health Centers. The program has now grown to serve over 22 million people, demonstrated a compelling track record of excellence, and has urged strong bipartisan support and federal and state levels.
Construction of the new H. Jack Geiger Medical Center was made possible by a $5 million grant from the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) under the Affordable Care Act. The state-of-the-art facility will be built on the current property of the Mound Bayou health center -- the oldest rural health center in America. The existing original facility will be dedicated to an education and training center and named in honor of principal founders, Drs. John Hatch and Andrew James. Also honored at this special event were some of the program’s earliest founders, including Drs. L. C. “Elsie” Dorsey, Aaron Shirley, and Robert Smith. Today, the health center serves over 12,850 patients who otherwise may not have access to health care.
“This health center helped propel our nation forward with the vision of empowering communities to shape affordable health care solutions,” said Tom Van Coverden, President and CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “Doctors and nurses and community health leaders started out solving the problems that were at the root of poor health, such as unsanitary drinking water and malnutrition. The community themselves became involved in taking responsibility for their own health care and in concert with other local partners began providing unique, local solutions to their own situations. Among other initiatives, the Delta staff helped community members dig wells, install water pumps, and encourage many families to grow their own vegetables. They went beyond the scope of traditional medicine, focusing not just on illness prevention, but the factors that cause it. Health centers nationwide continue that approach even today with innovation and excellence that prevents hospitalizations while generating $24 billion a year in savings to the entire health care system.”
The H. Jack Geiger Medical Center will expand the health center’s capacity to see more families in need of affordable primary health care services, such as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, dental care, and OB/GYN services. It will also offer diagnostic services such as radiology and a pharmacy.
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), a longtime champion of health centers, was among the federal, state, and local officials attending the historic ground breaking ceremony. Mr. Van Coverden noted that, “we were pleased to be joined for the entire event by Senator Roger Wicker, who, along with many of his colleagues in the Senate, understand the value that health centers bring to the table and is helping to lead an effort to ensure adequate financial support for the Community Health Centers program. We are deeply grateful to Senator Wicker for his leadership in the bipartisan effort to ensure that our nation’s health centers have the necessary resources to continue providing cost effective solutions for our communities – and look forward to continue working closely with Senator Wicker and his staff.”
Also in attendance was Robert M. Pugh, MPH, Executive Director of the Mississippi Primary Health Care Association. He said, “We applaud Delta Health Center CEO, John Fairman, as well as his board and staff for honoring the vision and legacy of Dr. Geiger and for their continued leadership and dedication to following in his footsteps to continue the fight for equity in health care services for all in need -- regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. It is indeed a very proud day for all Mississippians and, especially, for the pioneers of the Community Health Center Movement with us here as well as those that have passed on and who fought alongside Dr. Geiger without regard for their own safety as they saw their efforts grow into the national Community Health Center Movement.”
Photo: (From left to right) H. Jack Geiger, MD; John Fairman, CEO, Delta Health Center; Mr. Fairman’s daughter, Madeline; U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (MS)