Hamilton story 02 by Mark Rummel
Since 1982, tens of thousands of Flint area people have received quality health care close to home, thanks to the Hamilton Community Health Network (HCHN).
And, Hamilton is celebrating its 38th Anniversary after its founding in 1982, as a vital community service in Mid-Michigan.
HCHN is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive, quality, community-oriented health care for the insured and uninsured residents of Genesee and Lapeer Counties and surrounding areas. Since its founding, HCHN has proudly offered a caring, trained and certified staff to treat and manage chronic and acute disease, oral health management, health promotion and disease prevention.
It actually all began back in 1920, when Detroit Catholic Diocese Bishop Michael J. Gallagher requested that four sisters of St. Joseph come to Flint to establish what would become St. Joseph Hospital. Those Sisters of St. Joseph left their convent in Kalamazoo to bring a mission of caring for all people in need in Flint, arriving here on Sept. 25, 1920. Soon, they would open St. Joseph Hospital in the former Thomas Stockton residence at 720 Ann Arbor St.
The hospital continued growing and serving the community for six decades, and eventually, St. Joseph Health Systems affiliated with Flint General Hospital in 1981. A 115-bed facility which later was named Family Hospital, Flint General Hospital was the only facility where African-Americans could receive primary care in the community, according to Clarence Pierce, MS, Chief Executive Officer of HCHN.
When Family Hospital closed in 1982, primary care needs for the low-income, minority populations in Flint were not being met. That is when Jerry Vogler, Archie LeFlore and other founding Board Members established Hamilton Family Health Center to provide medical care in the former Family Hospital building on Hamilton Avenue, in Downtown Flint, beginning in April, 1982.
At first, it operated out of the former hospital’s basement, providing medical, dental and social service needs primarily for residents on the north side of Flint. Thanks to tireless work from first Executive Director Jerry Vogler, later its second Executive Director Gerald Matthews and additional support from then-State Rep. Dale Kildee, Hamilton Family Health Center earned grants and funding which allowed it to expand services from a larger location at 4001 N. Saginaw St., to help address the medical needs of the growing homeless population.
As nearly 40,000 General Motors jobs disappeared from the area in the 1980s-90s, the target population of the working poor, unemployed, uninsured and homeless residents served by Hamilton Family Health enter grew. A second location was added in 1993 in the Beecher community, where the Dental program would become a stand-alone clinic now known as Dental North.
With direction from third and fourth Executive Directors David Caudle and Gary Peterson, Hamilton Family Health Center kept expanding its services as needed. Working with Hurley Medical Center, the North Pointe Clinic became a Hamilton Family Health Center, still the only health center located north of Pierson Road on Flint’s north side.
Expansion continued into the 1990s and 2000s under interim Executive Director Greg Averyhardt, to serve even more people. The Burton Clinic was established in 2002 through a partnership with the Genesee County Health Department. That larger space meant other services could be offered — including family planning, immunizations for children and adults, pregnancy testing, pediatric services and a pharmacy.
Administrative offices were relocated in 2009 to the current location in downtown Flint. Under the leadership of Clarence Pierce, the sixth Chief Executive Officer of what is now the Hamilton Community Health Network, our flagship Main Clinic is located on Saginaw Street, and is the largest Hamilton facility.
Through a collaboration with Genesys Health System, now Ascension Health, Hamilton was gifted the Clio Health Clinic site including all equipment in 2012. The Lapeer Health Clinic opened its doors in 2016, to again expand Hamilton’s goal of serving people in need of quality medical care.
“At Hamilton, we recognize that patients serviced by community health centers have complex medical and socio-economic needs that can make access to prevention and medical treatment more difficult,” CEO Pierce says. “Through the addition of vision, dental and specialty services such as urology and podiatry, we are creating a one-stop shop for medical services.”
That expansion of services has been key to Hamilton’s growth, as more clinics and offices require more support offices and staff. Hamilton’s six locations cater to all types of needs in local communities. There are three Dental Offices, a Vision Office and two Pharmacies to serve Hamilton’s communities.
Bishop Gallagher and the four sisters of St. Joseph would truly be amazed at what has resulted from the work they started 100 years ago, all for the health betterment of local residents.