SUN LIFE FAMILY HEALTH CENTER – 40 YEARS AND COUNTING by Renée Louzon-Benn, Director of Community Outreach, Sun Life Family Health Center, Inc.
ebruary 2016 marked the 40th anniversary for Sun Life Family Health Center (Sun Life). Since 1976, Sun Life has delivered health care to the underserved, uninsured and insured people living in rural Pinal County. The not-for-profit organization has grown to become the county’s largest primary health care provider, committed to providing both the insured and uninsured with access to quality and price-conscious services.
Sun Life’s Historical Journey
Sun Life staff truly care about the people we serve. It has been our legacy since Sun Life started. We began as an outgrowth of the Arizona Job College, which provided job training for migrant and seasonal farm workers. The farm workers who were interested in health services were trained at the Center. Over time, as the training funds ran out, the health funds kept coming and the job college became solely a health facility. In 1976, the Center became incorporated as West Pinal Family Health Center (West Pinal), a 501(c)3 not-for profit organization which staffed one full-time and one part-time physician. In the first year, the Center provid-
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ed 12,000 patient visits. In March 1977, the Center moved from the Job College to the Esperanza Building at 201. W. Cottonwood Lane. This move provided a larger facility, allowing the Center to increase staffing to three full-time and three part-time physicians. This new facility was built to offer laboratory, X-ray and pharmacy services as a convenience for patients. By 1978, the Center had introduced family dentistry and women’s health and maternity care services (OB/GYN), now providing an array of services to the community, and truly being a “family health Center.” 1980 saw the start of growth to communities outside of Casa Grande, starting with the Center’s second office in Maricopa, and in 1981 becoming established as a Federally Qualified Health Center, allowing a shift in funding from migrant grants to the Community Health Center Program grant. The Center operated on a sliding-fee schedule and patients paid according to their income. This was by no means a ‘free clinic,’ as there was a minimum fee charged. This meant West Pinal was able to ensure that everyone in the community was eligible to use the Center’s services, regardless of income or insurance status. Even in these early years, the goal
was to offer good, quality, conventional care, focusing on preventative health services. This level of care supported continued growth, and in 1983, we opened in Eloy, and 1984, opened in Coolidge, bringing the organization to four offices in the county. In 1996, West Pinal underwent some big changes and rebranded, thus changing its name to Sun Life Family Health Center. Along with its new name, the organization also moved into a newly-constructed building on Arizola Road in order to serve the growing insured and uninsured Casa Grande population. The facility, expanded in 2003, still stands today as the organization’s largest family health center location, including dental and pharmacy. A mine closure presented Sun Life with an opportunity to fill more need, and in 1999, we opened an office in San Manuel, operating out of this small town’s newly-vacated hospital. This office houses family practice, lab, X-ray and a pharmacy. As the years went by, Sun Life continued to try to provide their patients and communities the best possible patient experience and to be where there is need for accessible and price-conscious health care. 2001 saw new construction for the Maricopa office and the Coolidge office in 2003. In 2004, Sun Life opened an office in the Oracle community. Sun Life experienced amazing growth over the past 10 years of operation. In 2010, Sun Life added integrated behavioral health services into the existing health care model. 2010 also marked the move of OB/GYN into its own building alongside the newly-added pediatric services. 2010 also marked the completion of a new building for Eloy which houses family practice and a pharmacy – a service the town had been without for over 14 years. Increased patient need spurred more growth in 2014, resulting in Casa Grande’s Sun Life Center for Children, Sun Life Center for Women and a new Apache Junction office offering family practice, pediatrics, OB/GYN and a pharmacy. In 2015, Sun Life moved Maricopa’s family practice to a new, larger facility, added pediatric care and a pharmacy and renovated the original Maricopa office to provide OB/GYN. In 2016, Sun Life marked its 40th year by opening a continued on page 94... THE THETHE THE EDUCATION EDUCATION TRAVEL TRAVELEDITION EDITION
Summer 2016 Vol II