The NorthShore University HealthSystem is donating $1.8 million to support the establishment of a new federally qualified community health center to serve low-income patients in Evanston and Skokie.

The contribution supplements a $650,000 annual grant from the federal government to the Erie Family Health Center, the group that will operate the local center, which will open temporary quarters Oct. 22 on the ground floor of the Civic Center before moving to an undetermined permanent location in Evanston next year.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told Evanston Now that Erie will rent the Civic Center space for $1 and that the tenant buildout will be paid for by Erie, aided by the grant from NorthShore.

“No Evanston taxpayer money or staff” will be allocated to the establishment of the temporary facility, he said, although Erie will not be charged for utilities or for use of the city’s internet wifi system.

J. P. Gallagher, president of NorthShore Evanston Hospital, made the announcement Wednesday at a “celebration” on the lawn behind the civic center, attended by a slew of local politicians, including the mayors of Evanston and Skokie, several aldermen, state legislators, and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

Dr. Lee Francis, president and chief executive officer of Erie, said the new facility “will help us make a real impact on the health and welfare of residents of Evanston and Skokie.”

He said that, initially, Erie will provide pediatric, family, and dental services at the civic center location before moving to their permanent location that will provide additional services.

Although community health centers have been around for 45 years, they were given new life by the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Last year, more than 1,100 community health centers were in operation throughout the country, providing care to approximately 20.2 million patients, up from 18.8 million in 2009, according to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Affordable Care Act established the Community Health Center Fund that provides $11 billion over a five-year period for the operation, expansion, and construction of health centers nationwide, to improve the quality and accessibility of health care.

The grant to Evanston was one of 219 new grants nationwide and one of 11 in the State of Illinois that were included in this year’s federal budget.  The President’s budget request for fiscal year 2013, not yet approved by Congress, includes more than $3 billion for health centers to provide preventive and primary health care services to an estimated 21 million patients nationwide.

Local advocacy for the center also came from Evanston 150, the community organization that identified 10 “big ideas” to celebrate Evanston’s 150th anniversary in 2013. One of the 10 was to “establish a community health center to provide high quality and affordable medical, dental, and preventive care for all, regardless of ability to pay, for those who are uninsured and underinsured.”

The community health care model has been shown to reduce the use of costlier providers of care, such as hospital emergency rooms, according to the federal agency. Therefore, they play a key role in the objective of reducing the nation’s health care bill.

Top: Rep. Schakowsky with Lee Francis of Erie, J. P. Gallagher of Evanston Hospital, Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen and Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Wrong, Wally. The taxpayers will pay

    Wally B. says no taxpayer money will be used for the clinic's use. Well, then, who will pay for the clinic's water, utilities, and wifi service?


    Northshore Health system doesn't have enough indigent or charity patients to keep their tax exempt status so they have to give money to the community to keep it.

    Remember in 2005, Schakowsky and unions pressured the Evanston City Council to establish a voter referendum to strip the tax exempt status of Evanston's Catholic Hospital St. Francis. Tisdahl at the time was a councilman that voted to approve the referendum.

    After failing in 2004 in a direct legal challenge to the tax-exempt status of Resurrection Health Care, which owns St. Francis, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees collected more than 4,000 signatures to put the referendum on the ballot with the Council's approval. Schakowsky used her resources with robo calls and fliers to get votes for the measure.

    Thankfully, Evanston voters saw through the ruse and voted that St. Francis, which donates far more in charity and indigent care than other local hospitals, keep its tax exempt status. At the time, St. Francis in 2004 donated $21 million in charity cases.

    Say, I don't think Northshore Health system is unionized. What gives? 

    1. Deal with the issue

      So there are poor people who need healthcare.

      What should we do?   Besides complain.

      1. We should make this a state-paid center

        There are several problems:

        1. non-Evanston residents will be using it too.  Unless surrounding areas also contribute to paying for staff, water, heat, etc,  we are essentially paying for any resident in any area for health care.  This should be a state-run or entirely nationally financed operation. 

        But wait… you say the state is broke?

        2. Evanston is is also essentially bankrupt. WE are in debt $331 million dollars.  WE are selling off properties and shutting down services already. 

        3. The teachers are about to strike.  Yes, this comes from a different piece of the tax pie, but the reality is that families only pay one property tax bill.  That bill is going to have to go up already to pay for the teachers and their pensions.

        A health center is a good idea, but not on the tax roll of just Evanston residents.  I"m sure this 1.8 million dollar investment is a great one for NOrthshore. They are probably hoping that people who can't pay now become the responsibility of the city of Evanston and don't show up at their emergency rooms.

        The state of Illinois already had health clinics, which are continually defunded and shutting.   This national grant should go there to help poor people who need health care, not to our city to open a new clinic. 




        1. North Shore should pay more or lose non-profit status

          $1.8 million from north shore is chump change to them, especially if they do not have to service uninsured people at the emergency room.

  2. Clinic is a good thing, city of Evanston involvement is —–?

    Expanding Health care to the needy is a good thing.  The city of Evanston involvement is questionable.

    We heard from Wally, Mayor and council members, we don't have enough money to keep the building at Light house park, we need to sell park land.  Our Mayor makes bongus political statements like not one inch of land will be sold. It is likely to be sold at an fire sale price so Wally does not have to maintain it.

    Yet the Mayor is running around trying to set up a Health center.  In Wally's world of accounting staff has no cost, so any staff supporting this effort had no cost.  Interestingly enough a Health Center which is federal has much bigger need than serving voters in Evanston who might vote for the Mayor..  Skokie no doubt many have a even much larger populaiton in need.

    Before when the city intially was going after this grant and it disappeared, the grant would not support it, so it was a joke, the Mayor wanted to put it in the basement of the Civic another joke.  The money was not there.

    It appears with the 1,8 million dollars they can renovate 10,000 square feet of space. Also it now appears they can operate beyond one year it the $650,000 grant is continuous. thius this is possible but will the city screw it up?

    There is some plan here to move to the basement of the civic center  for a short time,  why move there?  The space is a mess.  Why would anyone want to spend a penny of money to mover there? Wally is very mistaken taxpayers money will be used, on this , remember he screwrd up the move of ECTV to the service building since it is not accessable to disable residents, that is unless  they can drive up to the second floor. The basement space has numerous code and ADA issue, why would they be corrected for a short term move?

    This health center should be on the Evanston Skokie boarder and put in Skokie, on a public transportation line, so people can get there.  Why put it in Skokie? This is a not for profit so we do not need any more property off the tax rolls.Ofcourse it does really matter with all the screwed up economic developement with so little return on investment what the lost of another $100,000 a year in property taxes?

    Anyone know what happen to the bids for Robert Crown?  Its been months since they were put out. Maybe the Mayor and Wally can show some concern for actual city business rather than working on the Mayor's pet projects?


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