Left to right, Dr. Lee Francis, president and CEO of Erie Family Health Services, Evanston Health Director Evonda Thomas, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdhal and Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen cut the ribbon on the new health center.RoundTable photo

On Oct. 22, Erie Evanston/Skokie Family Health Center opened its doors at the Evanston Civic Center, a project that has been two years in the making.

“Erie Evanston/Skokie will offer high-quality care for thousands of Evanston and Skokie residents who previously lacked access to affordable care,” said Erie Family Health Center in a prepared statement. “It will provide primary care services for children, teens, adults, and seniors, children’s dentistry and behavioral health services. Prenatal care will be available starting in summer 2013.”

Erie operates 13 community health centers that serve approximately 40,000 people in the Chicago area. It is partnering with the City of Evanston, the Village of Skokie, NorthShore University Health System, St. Francis Hospital and others to meet the health needs of persons in the Erie Evanston/Skokie community health center.

The health center will be located in the Evanston Civic Center temporarily until a new, permanent location is secured, said Dr. Lee Francis, president and CEO of Erie. Dr. Francis said Erie is looking in the Dempster Street/Hartrey Avenue area for a permanent site, and the plan is to have the permanent health center operating within nine to 12 months. The new center will provide care to more than 5,500 patients annually, with an estimated 18,500 patient visits each year, he said.

“For more than half a century, Erie has been in communities where we are needed most,” said Dr. Francis. “Right now, there is a growing need for primary care providers in the suburbs, so we are thrilled to be able to expand our health-care services by branching out into Evanston and Skokie to meet increased patient demand.”

“I am so excited that this much-awaited day is here marking this opening of a world-class health center right here in the heart of Evanston,” said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. “But more importantly, I am delighted that many more Evanston area residents and their families will have access to much-needed, affordable health care.”

The new health center was made possible by an annual operating grant of $650,000 from the Department of Health and Family Services, said Erie. In addition, NorthShore contributed $1.2 million for the new, permanent health center, as well as $600,000 of annual operating support over three years. Dr. Francis said the capital costs for the new center are $2.7 million. A campaign to raise an additional $1.4 million is under way.