Friend Health’s Woodlawn Center opens this month, bringing family, behavioral and women’s health to an ‘underserved’ area


WOODLAWN – A 45,000 square foot health center will open in Woodlawn this month with the goal of improving health outcomes in the neighborhood.

Friend Health’s Woodlawn Health Center, 6250 S. Cottage Grove Ave., will provide pediatric, behavioral, mental, obstetrical, gynecological, and immediate health care along with a pharmacy and community center adjacent to the Cottage Grove stop GreenLine.

Staff will move in to begin booking appointments and opening programs on July 18, and the center will be fully open within a month, Friend Health chief operating officer Wendy Thompson said.

A second phase, to be built across from the center on Evans Avenue, will provide dental services, executive offices and retail space. Friend Health will move its headquarters to campus from its former home at 800 E. 55th St. in Hyde Park.

“We intend for this magnificent facility to serve as a hub for community wellness – a place where the people of Woodlawn and the South Side of Chicago come not only to heal themselves, but also to maintain and support healthy lifestyles,” Friend Health CEO Verneda Bachus said at a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday.

The center opens in a “medically underserved” area, officials said, meaning the community has few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty or a large elderly population.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Verneda Bachus, CEO of Friend Health, speaks at Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Health care provided at the center will be “culturally competent,” meaning staff members “reflect our community” and patients will receive care that takes into account their lives outside of their medical needs, Thompson said.

Friend Health will also connect patients with needed services, such as housing programs for homeless patients, she said.

“We know health is more than medical, so we want to make sure we’re treating the patient holistically,” Thompson said.

The $43 million project received $17 million in federal and state tax credits, $8 million in tax increment funding (TIF), a $2.5 million grant for the Chicago stimulus package and $250,000 in federal appropriations.

The Woodlawn Health Center will help the city close its racial health gap and address decades of disinvestment in the neighborhood, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.

“With the grand opening of [the center]residents of Woodlawn and others in surrounding communities will finally receive the local access to life-saving health care they have always deserved and needed,” said Lightfoot.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Mayor Lori Lightfoot (center) and Deputy Mayor for Economic and Neighborhood Development Samir Mayekar (right) wrap up a tour of Friend Health Woodlawn on July 8.

The community health center, which transformed a former beauty and furniture store, can help revitalize an intersection that was once a center of activity for Black Chicago, said U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) , soon to be retired.

Rush linked the center opening to his time with the Black Panthers. The revolutionary group opened a free clinic on the West Side in 1969, named after Spurgeon “Jake” Winters, Rush’s sidekick Panther, who died in a shootout with police.

“It was part of the beginning of everything [federally qualified health center] movement,” Rush said. “…I am as excited as I was in the early 70s to provide health care opportunities and meet the health care needs of poor people, in particular.”

Health resort developer DL3 Realty is also behind the Washington Park Bank redevelopment across 63rd Street from the center, from the Park Station affordable housing development a block east. on 63rd Street and Maryland Avenue and from the Jewel-Osco two blocks north on 61st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.

The Woodlawn Health Center is part of a “four-corner solution” at 63rd and Cottage Grove “which, in the center of Woodlawn, will create a ripple effect that will unwind and help feed the rest of our community,” associate director of DL3 says Léon Walker.

Friend Health operates six other clinics in Chicago.

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