History of the Organization
United Health Centers of the San Joaquin Valley
In 1970, the closest healthcare facility to the community of Orange Cove was the Fresno County emergency room located nearly 50 miles away. The residents of Orange Cove formed a committee to find a solution for the healthcare needs of their community. From the recommendations of this committee, the earliest seeds of what would become United Health Centers were planted.
The committee requested and received assistance from the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission and incorporated the Orange Cove Family Health Center, Inc. on January 15th, 1971. Just over 10 months later, on October 17th, 1971, the first clinic, the Orange Cove Family Health Center, was opened on 11th Street in Orange Cove.
Concurrently, a group of concerned residents in the nearby city of Parlier were also looking for a solution to their lack of health care. While residents had hoped to use the Migrant Health Act (MHA) funds to open their own clinic, the County of Fresno had elected to not receive those funds. Undaunted, local organizers petitioned the City of Parlier to administer MHA funds as an interim grantee. These funds allowed the formation of Parlier Family Health Center, Inc., an organization that could receive Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (DHEW) funds directly. Also opening in 1971, the Parlier Family Health Center brought local, affordable healthcare to the community.
Recognizing the similar missions of the two clinics and the increased efficiency of working together, a merger of the Orange Cove and Parlier facilities was announced on June 13th, 1975. The new organization was named Orange Cove-Parlier Family Health Centers.
That same year, the Five Points Health Clinic, funded by State Rural Health and Maternal Child Health funds, approached the new organization for assistance in its application for the Rural Health Care Initiative. Grateful for the assistance, and again recognizing the similar missions, challenges, and benefits of each organization, the two organizations merged on May 6th, 1976.. No longer just an organization focused on one or two communities, the new Board of Directors adopted the name United Health Centers of the San Joaquin Valley, Inc. The new name truly represented its vast patient service area from the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s in Orange Cove to the eastern slopes of the Coastal Range in Five Points.
As the organization grew and expanded, it also upgraded its facilities and services. Until 1977, the clinics in Orange Cove and Parlier were made of temporary mobile trailers. That year, United Health Centers, Inc. received a construction grant from the State Hill-Burton Program to build permanent facilities in Orange Cove and Parlier.
Also in 1977, the Fresno County Health Department had elected to discontinue a public health clinic it was funding at a labor camp in Huron. UHC immediately recognized the critical need for health care services in that community. Upon completion of Orange Cove’s and Parlier’s permanent facilities, the temporary buildings were moved to Huron which opened in April of 1978 as the third United Health Centers (UHC) clinic site. Those modular buildings would serve the Huron community for nearly a decade until 1985 when UHC constructed a permanent facility there.
In the early 1980’s, the Ten Communities Health Corporation (TCHC) developed internal difficulties. At risk of no longer being able to provide their communities with health care, the TCHC approached UHC with an offer to assume ownership and management of their clinic in Earlimart. Officially opening in 1982, the United Health Centers Earlimart clinic became the fourth UHC site and continued UHC’s expansion across the San Joaquin Valley becoming the southernmost clinic.
When the Fresno County Health Department established the Firebaugh Community Health Center, it came at the expense of a Regional Medical Program that the Fresno-Madera Medical Society had piloted in Mendota. The Mendota site was closed, leaving thousands of residents, particularly on the west side of Mendota, without convenient and comprehensive health care services. UHC was able to obtain Medically Underserved Areas (MUA) designation for the community, providing government funds and a construction loan which allowed the Mendota Family Health Center to become the fifth UHC site, opening in November of 1993.
In 1994, the Kerman Health Center was established and in 1995, the Sanger Health Center joined the UHC family. Shortly thereafter the Sanger site moved into a larger facility to accommodate the incredible demand from patients.
With seven clinics operating across the Valley, there was a need to consolidate and upgrade the administrative functions of UHC in order to most efficiently provide quality medical services to the communities served. That need was addressed in 2011 and just a few months after UHC’s 40th anniversary, the UHC Corporate Office Complex in Parlier was opened on property adjacent to the Parlier Health Center.
The new facility helped to consolidate the departments of Human Resources, Patient Financial Services, Information Technology, Quality Improvement, Purchasing, and the Executive Leadership Offices in one location. Funded with state and federal grants, the Administration Building in Parlier increased the efficiency with which the Administration could improve, expand, and deliver quality, comprehensive health services.
In part because of the upgraded Administrative facilities, UHC would undergo an incredible amount of growth in the years to follow. In 2011 UHC received two Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) Capital Improvement Grants. One grant funded the replacement of the existing health center in Mendota and the expansion of clinical suites in the Parlier Health Center. A second grant allowed for the original health center in Mendota to be remodeled for expanded Pharmacy Services, the Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program, and Behavioral Health services. To accommodate the expansion in services, the parking lot in Parlier was expanded and upgraded after the removal of two small buildings and several large trees.
Another HRSA grant was received in 2011 for the construction and operation of a new facility in Corcoran, CA. Officially opened in February of 2012, this location became the first UHC health center in Kings County.
In the fall of 2013, UHC received a HRSA Capital Grant to establish a second Kings County health center in the City of Lemoore. The Lemoore health center is established in leased space for primary care medical services and held its grand opening in June 2014.
After moving the WIC offices to the new Administration complex in 2011, UHC began the process of renovating the office space for use as a health center. The renovation was completed in the summer of 2014 and the Reedley Health Center became the 10th UHC Health Center.
Other projects completed during the years 2013 and 2014 included:
· The expansion of the vacant wing in the Kerman health center featuring a new Medical Suite, Optometry Suite, and training classrooms.
· In Earlimart, the entire medical and dental suites were renovated and UHC was able to acquire the adjacent property next to the health center for additional patient parking.
· Corcoran expanded into an adjacent office building which was renovated to bring in new Optometry Services.
· Huron renovated existing space and added two more medical exam rooms.
Always looking for innovative and efficient ways to serve their communities, UHC received a HRSA grant to establish two school-based health centers in Parlier and Raisin City in 2012. Upon approval by the local governing school boards and the Raisin City School District construction was started in May of 2014, and completed in 2015. Located in the Raisin City Elementary School, the 1000 square foot facility has four exam rooms and office space for a Behavioral Health Department. This facility represents the only health services available for the unincorporated community of Raisin City. A similar health center was opened in the Mathew J Brletic Elementary School in the Parlier Unified School District in January of 2016. These two school-based sites became the 11th and 12th UHC sites.
The Fowler Health Center became UHC’s 13th site and was completed in February of 2016. The 15,000 square foot center houses medical, dental, optometry and behavioral health services within the City of Fowler’s oldest building completed in 1906. Funding for the Fowler center came through a HRSA Expansion Grant received in 2015.
The history of United Health Centers of the San Joaquin Valley is hardly complete. New sites are planned for Selma, expansions are coming for Parlier and Reedley, and a state of the art Administrative Complex will break ground in Fresno in 2017. UHC is in a unique position to positively impact rural communities across the Valley, and will continue to do everything it can to provide services to those who need them. From one small group of concerned citizens in Orange Cove grew an organization that will provide more than a half-million services across the Valley this year. At United Health Centers, our vision is simple: to improve the health and quality of life for the communities we serve.