Community Health Northwest Florida has built its reputation on being accessible to everyone, and it will continue that trend with a community celebration this weekend.
The organization will hold its community kickoff picnic from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 2315 W. Jackson St.
The picnic is a celebration of the 30 years Community Health Northwest Florida has provided accessible health care to residents of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties and surrounding areas. It will be a family event where everyone is welcomed with food, games, a bounce house, face painting, swag bag giveaways and educational materials to bring awareness and acceptance to autism during Autism Awareness Month.
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The celebration is to help connect and bring awareness to Community Health and its work.
“We provide high quality care and it doesn’t matter what you have, what you don’t have, where you come from, what you look like — everyone is welcomed,” said Chandra Smiley, CEO and executive director of Community Health Northwest Florida.
Community Health Northwest Florida was created in 1992 when Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital and Baptist Hospital decided to work together with Escambia County and create a community clinic for the uninsured. Originally called Escambia Community Clinics Inc., the organization was granted federally qualified health center status in 2007, which allowed it to receive federal funding and expand services to Santa Rosa County.
In 2017, the clinic changed its name to Community Health Northwest Florida to highlight its mission of making health care accessible to all.
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Now Community Health has gone from having one site to 17 and from taking care of 12,000 individuals to roughly 55,000. In 2021 alone, Community Health cared for nearly 12,000 patients who had no insurance and 5,000 patients who had not homes and administered over 30,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses, often in underserved communities.
Community Health now has walk-in clinics at 14 W. Jordan St. to provide basic medical care services. Its location in Milton has moved from Stuart Street to Caroline Street, allowing the space to grow from roughly 7,000 square feet to 24,000 square feet and add more services such as pediatric, dental and women’s health services via a newly installed mammography unit.
Community Health’s mission statement is that the organization is “committed to assuring access to affordable, quality health care for the underserved, underinsured and uninsured population, we treat each person with respect, dignity, and compassion regardless of age, gender, race, religion, circumstances or ability to pay.”
For Smiley, the two most important words in the mission statement are “regardless of.”
“We want our community to be healthy, we want everybody to thrive, we want people to be connected and engaged and not just physically but mentally and spiritually healthy,” Smiley said. “I think that we have a critical goal in people achieving that, and if you don’t have insurance, or if you don’t feel like you have the finances it doesn’t matter. We’re here for you.”