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United Health Centers

United Health Centers of the San Joaquin Valley Inc., with its corporate offices located in Parlier, California, is a private non-profit organization, incorporated in January 1971, whose purpose is to provide comprehensive medical, dental and community health services to the medically underserved in the central San Joaquin Valley in California.

The establishment of an effective rural health care delivery system was originated by community grass roots people who expressed the need to have access to health care. These groups began to work toward this end in communities having severe medically unmet needs. Although each group started at different times, their goals were similar. They had envisioned having the most comprehensive family oriented health care system to focus on the high infant morbidity and mortality rates, lack of medical and dental services, and the paucity of accessibility and affordability to health care.

The result of such efforts can be found in modern medical and dental facilities in the communities of Parlier, Orange Cove, Huron, Earlimart, Mendota, Kerman, and Sanger. Most of the health centers offer the following services: general and family medicine, general dentistry, pharmacy, laboratory, x-ray, and preventative medicine programs. Programs such as perinatal health, nutrition, WIC, health education, family planning, immunizations, and maternal and child health are also available.

United Health Centers service area is located in the heart of California in the Central San Joaquin Valley. The San Joaquin Valley is considered the richest agricultural area in the United States. The agricultural economy of the San Joaquin Valley depends heavily on a farm labor force which is made up primarily of local farmworkers. During the peak harvest season migrant farm workers from throughout the Southwestern United States come to assist in the harvesting of a variety of fruits and vegetables. The area is considered the highest migrant impact area in the County.

United Health Centers delivers approximately 130,000 medical, dental, and other service encounters per year. The ethnic composition of the patients served by the centers is 91% Hispanic, 1% Black, 7% White, 1% other. United Health Centers accepts various modes of payment including Medi-Cal, Medicare, and private insurance. Services are provided to patients without insurance on a sliding-fee-scale according to the patient’s ability to pay.

United Health Centers is staffed by a comprehensive team of over 360 health professionals consisting of physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, lab and x-ray technicians, dentists, dental hygienists, nutritionists, and certified ancillary personnel, most of whom are bilingual.

The Policies and Procedures, Goal & Objectives are set by the Board of Directors. The Board consists of professional, community, and consumer members. The Chief Executive Officer is in charge of the day-to-day operations and management of the centers.

United Health Centers works with other local and national groups, such as National Association of Community Health Centers and the California Primary Care Association, in the coordination of services for migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

History

Our organization’s origin began in 1970, when the residents of Orange Cove developed a committee to address their communities growing health concerns. At that time, the nearest county health department facility was the county hospital’s emergency room located in Fresno, fifty miles away.

Local health activists sought the assistance of the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission and incorporated the Orange Cove Family Health Center, Inc. on January 15, 1971. On October 17, 1971, the organization dedicated the first clinic at 445 11th Street in Orange Cove.

Concurrently, a group of concerned residents in the city of Parlier were also growing dissatisfied with their health care options. Fresno county health officials had opted not to receive Migrant Health Act funds thus local organizers petitioned for the funds to be administered by the city of Parlier, as an interim grantee. Soon the formation of the Parlier Family Health Center Inc. opened the door for direct DHEW funding.

On June 13, 1975, a merger was officially consummated with both organizations. The new name of the organization was Orange Cove-Parlier Family Health Centers, Inc.

In 1975, the Five Points Health clinic funded by State Rural Health and Maternal Child Health funds, approached the organization for assistance in application for Rural Health Initiative. In the process, the parent organization (CHEPA, Inc.) decided to merge with the corporation and on May 6, 1976, the Board adopted the new name of United Health Centers of the San Joaquin Valley, Inc. The new name truly represented its vast patient-catchments areas encompassing the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Orange Cove to the eastern slopes of the Costal Range in Five Points.

During 1977, the Centers had received a construction grant from the State Hill-Burton Program for two permanent facilities at Orange Cove and Parlier. The vacated buildings of Orange Cove and Parlier Health Centers were to be transported to Huron to serve as the Health Center. The Health Center was built in Huron where Fresno County Health Department had discontinued a Public Health Clinic at a labor camp. In April of 1978, the Huron Health Center was in operation. The Huron Health Center operated successfully for years utilizing the old modular buildings, but in 1985, a new Huron Health Center was built.

The Ten Communities Health Corporation developed internal difficulties. UHC was approached with the offer to assume ownership and management of the health center in Earlimart. In 1982, the Earlimart Health Center opened up the south end of the San Joaquin Valley, becoming the fourth UHC Health Center.

Residents of the west side community of Mendota, where the Fresno-Madera Medical Society had established years earlier a pilot program under the Regional Medical Programs requested assistance in obtaining health services. The center had been closed after Fresno County Health Department established the Firebaugh Community Health Centers. UHC obtained MUA designation and a construction loan, which allowed for the Mendota Family Health Center to open in November of 1993.

Responding to community inquiries after conducting a community assessment, the corporation negotiated a multi-year lease with cooperative agreements for remodeling and moved to establish health centers. In 1994, the Kerman Family Health Center was established.

In 1995, the Sanger Family Health was added as UHC’s last site. In August 2002, UHC relocated to a larger facility to accommodate the increase in patient enrollment.

United Health Centers of the San Joaquin Valley, Inc. was founded on the principle that a community health center should provide its services to the patient population, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

Culture

“We are committed to the lifetime wellness of our communities by providing accessible, comprehensive quality health care to everyone, including farm worker families and the underserved, with compassion and respect, regardless of ability to pay”