Since the first community health center opened in 1965, the system has grown to include more than 1,400 health centers that care for nearly 1 in 12 people across the country. Here in our region, an alarming number of individuals and families deal with issues surrounding mental illness, substance misuse or lack of housing. Many feel shut out of traditional medical care because of barriers such as lack of insurance or transportation, cost, or a medical system that treats atypical sexual and gender identities with confusion or even disrespect.
For those who are struggling with quality of life and health, meeting one of their most basic needs – health care – is challenging. We are grateful to be able to alleviate worry and to help people when they are at their most vulnerable. Thanks to our generous donors, our community health centers are a safety net for local medically underserved populations. Greater access to care not only saves and improves lives, it also saves our health care system money by keeping uninsured patients healthy and out of costly emergency rooms.
We continue to join charitable health care with social services, to serve on the front lines of COVID response, to care for those experiencing housing insecurity and to contribute to an inclusive medical system that treats the whole person, regardless of circumstances or ability to pay. Your support makes access to a more equitable health care system possible for so many families and individuals in our region. Thank you.
Innovative Approaches to Workforce Development
Like other health-care providers nationwide, our practices have been experiencing staffing challenges for years, made worse during the pandemic. In response, we have partnered with schools and other health-care organizations to drive workforce development in key areas. Since becoming the first community health centers in New Hampshire to host family-physician residents in 2020, we have expanded our use of residents to include a dental-residency partnership with Harvard University. We also host dental students from Tufts University and the University of New England for externships. A new Medical Assistant externship program through Great Bay Community College also has been vital for filling open positions and giving students an affordable opportunity to pursue an education. These programs not only allow us to serve more people but also position our organization as a teaching and learning environment, which helps us attract, develop and retain staff.
Family Center Adds Programs for Vulnerable Families
The Family Center recently added programs to serve two of the most vulnerable types of families: kinship caregivers (grandparents and others who step in when parents are unable to care for their children, often due to substance misuse) and families in which a parent is incarcerated.
As part of the statewide Kinship Navigator Program, the Family Center offers emotional support, education, guidance and referrals for respite care and help meeting basic family needs. The center also holds a twice-monthly online support group for kinship caregivers, which has become a tight-knit group with a loyal following.
It is estimated that on any given day in the United States, 1 in 14 children have a parent who is, or has been, incarcerated. We partner with the statewide Family Ties Inside Out Project to offer a monthly online group for parents and caregivers of children in this situation.
Goodwin Doctor Named Outstanding Clinician
Kevin Zent, MD, a primary care provider at Goodwin Community Health for the past 10 years and now medical director at Goodwin, has been chosen as Outstanding Clinician of the Year for 2022. The award from Bi-State Primary Care Association, a nonpartisan organization that supports community health centers in New Hampshire and Vermont, honors primary care clinicians whose exemplary skills and service have made a significant impact on the health of underserved patients and their communities.
“In every health care institution there are bedrock physicians who are always willing to see the extra patient, help a nurse with triage or research a complicated medical presentation,” says Dr. Zent’s supervisor, Chief Medical Officer Joann Buonomano, MD. “Dr. Zent is that colleague. His love for humanity is at the core of our community health center and contributes to sustaining the power and the energy needed for the work ahead of us.”
Public Health Network Leads Vaccination Efforts
Our partner program, Strafford County Public Health Network (SCPHN) has been a leader in the region’s COVID-19 response since the pandemic began. In January 2021, the network began organizing vaccination clinics with partners such as local Fire and Emergency Medical Services departments, the Community Action Partnership of Strafford County, Community Partners mental health center and others. With the support of these agencies and an incredible cohort of volunteers, SCPHN had administered more than 40,000 vaccinations by December 2021, and the work is ongoing. SCPHN continues to mobilize partners to identify collaborative ways to meet community needs related to COVID vaccinations as well as mental health; substance misuse prevention, treatment, recovery and harm reduction; food security; and other critical public health needs. Pictured: Vaccine clinic at UNH.
Making Space for Expanded Access
Partnering with health care leaders like Tufts and Portsmouth Regional Hospital to bring more primary-care physicians to NH to work in community health centers was once a dream and is now a reality. This summer, we will welcome a third group of resident physicians, bringing the total from eight residents (pictured) to twelve. To accommodate this growth, Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth is undergoing an expansion that will add eight exam rooms and room for support staff. Additionally, at the new Families First location, we are fulfilling the promise to have residents do rotations in Portsmouth. The result: a culture of teaching and learning in our health centers, a larger primary care workforce in our region, and greater access to care for patients in need.
Campaign Brings Families First a New Home
Our generous community of donors, volunteers and staff members worked together to raise $2 million to support Families First’s relocation to 8 Greenleaf Woods Drive in Portsmouth.
This new, accessible medical home was designed for the efficient delivery of services and provides a welcoming space for patients, families and staff. It includes space for a pharmacy and an SOS recovery center, five more medical exam rooms than in the previous location and two additional dental operatories. Thank you to all who played a part in helping reach this landmark goal and made a lasting impact on the Seacoast as we continue to provide compassionate, integrated care.
The following donors contributed $1,000 or more in 2021.
The following donors contributed between $1 and $999 in 2021.
The following individuals have made planned gifts to sustain the health of our community.
To deliver innovative, compassionate, integrated health services and support that are accessible to all in our community, regardless of ability to pay.
To provide everyone in our community an opportunity to live a long and healthy life.
Compassion, Respect, Integrity, Collaboration, Excellence
Header photographs: Matt Parker Photos