The Brownsville Community Health Center (BCHC), a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), was originally established in the late 1940`s. It was known then as the City Clinic and was located in the City Hall building. BCHC was started by a group of local health care professionals who volunteered their time to provide health care to those who could not otherwise afford it. By 1952, as the need increased, the City Commission merged forces with the County Commission to share in the total cost of funding the clinic. A full time staff was hired and the clinic was relocated to an Army barracks building in the old Fort Brown Complex. Physicians from the community were recruited to assist at least one hour a week.
In 1972, the Brownsville City/County Health Center was built. The 21,500-sq.ft. building was made possible through financing provided by a federal grant from the Hill-Burton Foundation for half the cost. The city of Brownsville and Cameron County each paid a quarter of the cost. Both the City Clinic and the County Health Department occupied the building.
Five Years later (1977), the economic conditions in Brownsville changed dramatically as Mexico experienced its first peso devaluation. A community that relied heavily on Mexican trade began feeling the effects and businesses began to lay off workers; consequently, as unemployed grew, so did the demand for public health care. The City Commission, already under pressure for the city`s economic woes, assumed total responsibility for the City-County Clinic and renamed it the City Health Clinic and applied for federal funding.
In 1977, the City Health Clinic became the Brownsville Community Health Clinic, the eligibility guidelines were changed to reflect federal requirements, and a sliding fee scale based on the federal poverty guidelines was implemented. In addition, alterations of portions of the building were made to enhance the Clinic`s ability to efficiently handle the one hundred or so patients per day.
In November 1980, the Dental Clinic was added with one full time dentist assigned by the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). The following year (1981), the BCHC Maternity Center, staffed by 3 certified Nurse Midwives and one obstetrician, began operation at the Canales Building located on the grounds of Brownsville Medical Center. By this time, the number of NHSC physicians had increased to seven.
By 1982, BCHC had dramatically increased in staff as well as patient enrollment. About 200+ patients were being seen daily. It was then that efforts were initiated to obtain additional space from the Cameron County Health Department. In February 1983, the City of Brownsville bought out Cameron County`s interests. Plans were made to renovate the building, to house the Maternity Center, expand the Dental Clinic, and install the X-Ray Department. By October 1983, BCHC was able to offer comprehensive quality health services under one roof.
In 1985, BCHC`s name was changed to Brownsville Community Health Center (BCHC). An additional seven doctors were added, bringing the total number of staff to over 100. The increase in physicians brought a need for additional exam rooms, resulting in the relocation of the administrative staff to an office building away from the Center.
In 1986, a grant was submitted to Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), requesting funds in the amount of $132,500.00 to expand the Dental and Medical Records Departments. In 1987, a grant for the major portion of the Center`s budget ($367,500) was submitted to DHHS in Washington, but was denied because BCHC was an entity under the City of Brownsville.
On June 9, 1987, the BCHC Board of Directors requested approval for a total separation from the City of Brownsville. On June 30th, the City of Brownsville Commission passed a resolution that became effective on October 1st, and BCHC became a separate entity from the City.
Since that time, BCHC has experienced much change and growth. New departments were added to include Human Resources, Purchasing, and Finance. Services have expanded to include Pharmacy, Social Services, Health Education, Immunizations, Campus Care Centers (school based clinics) which were established in 1995, and outreach programs such as Mano a Mano (Promotora), Medical Legal Partnership, and AmeriCorps.
In 2002, BCHC acquired a donated building located in Cameron Park, a Colonia with more than 6000 residents. On September 8, 2003, The Brownsville Community Health Center at Cameron Park opened its doors in an effort to expand services to the residents of Brownsville and its surrounding areas.
Simultaneously, the planning to open another site was underway. A year later, after much planning and effort to determine the scope of services for the new site, BCHC recruited additional staff and on September 8, 2004, BCHC opened "New Horizon Medical." The staff was instrumental in naming the new clinic site.
In 2011, the Center provided care to 20,522 people and conducted 83,975 medical encounters. BCHC counts on a staff of over 185 full-time employees, 13 physicians, 6 mid-level practitioners and 1 dentists. On site ancillary services offered include a laboratory that is COLA and OSHA certified radiology, a Class A pharmacy, social services, case management, podiatry, patient education and eligibility assistance. Americorps volunteers and Promotoras from the community help with outreach, case management and patient education activities.
BCHC actively pursues linkages with health organizations to improve the health status of the community. BCHC has participated in the National Diabetes Collaborative, which emphasizes patient self-management along with a comprehensive set of direct care services. Through its many partnerships with local and state medical, dental, and allied health programs, the Center serves as a clinical rotation site for medical students, dental students, physician assistants, and other health professionals.