Families First Grand Opening celebrates new location and expanded access to care
PORTSMOUTH – Families First Health and Support Center celebrated its recent move to a larger facility in Portsmouth with a grand-opening celebration during National Health Center Week. Families First moved into the 15,000-square-foot building at Greenleaf Woods last February, following a successful $2 million capital campaign. The move expands access to health care to Seacoast residents in need by opening up to a projected 3,500 additional patients by the end of 2024.
About 150 donors, community partners, patients and members of the Board of Directors gathered on Aug. 11 to see how a former gym and swimming pool on Greenleaf Woods Drive had been transformed into a modern community health center.
Employees led tours of the spaces where Families First provides primary care for adults and children, prenatal care, dental care, behavioral health care, social work services, insurance enrollment, substance-use recovery services including an SOS recovery center, parenting classes, playgroups and home visiting. The center also serves as a base for mobile health teams that serve people facing challenges accessing health care. Next year it will open a pharmacy for the general public as well as Families First patients.
Speaking to attendees after touring Families First, Portsmouth Associate Mayor Joanna Kelley called the building “breathtaking” and noted that she would have benefited from the services provided there when she was a child in the foster-care system 20 years ago. “I know that myself, the Mayor, and Councilor [Beth] Moreau, who is here also, want to make sure that we have a Portsmouth and a Seacoast community that leaves no one behind. And unfortunately we’re not there yet,” she said.
“But facilities like this and the dedication of crowds like this allow us to be just that much closer. Remember that for every one of us that have the privilege to be here today and who may not need these services, there are dozens of our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, people we see every day who do. So we have to make sure that when we are in a position to support people, we do that.”
Also speaking at the celebration were Janet Laatsch, CEO of Greater Seacoast Community Health; Chief Medical Officer Joann Buonomano, MD; and longtime volunteer and founding board member Phyllis Eldridge.
Eldridge talked about how Families First started as a prenatal clinic at Portsmouth Regional Hospital under the leadership of Lindsay Josephs and how Josephs’ successor, longtime Executive Director Helen Taft, led the agency to add many more services over almost 30 years and to move to the Community Campus in 1999. “The space at the Campus seemed enormous to us at first,” Eldridge said, “but then we outgrew it. So when we came to this building and I first saw the front- desk area, about three times the size of the old one, I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
NH State Sen. Tom Sherman attended the celebration, along with representatives of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Sen. Maggie Hassan, and Rep. Chris Pappas.
The celebration also included refreshments provided by Victoria’s Kitchen of Hampton and Scottish music performed by a trio that included Joseph Fuller, MD, a physician at Families First’s partner health center, Goodwin Community Health.
Families First timed the grand-opening celebration to coincide with National Health Center Week, whose goal is to raise awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America’s health centers over the past five decades. Families First is one of 1,400 community Health Centers that provide health care for approximately 28 million people throughout the United States.
As the National Association of Community Health Centers noted in a statement issued in connection with Health Center Week, community health centers “are not just healers, we are innovators who look beyond medical charts to address the factors that may cause poor health, such as poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, lack of nutrition, and unemployment. We are a critical piece of the health care systems and collaborate with hospitals, local and state governments, social, health and business organizations to improve health outcomes for people who are medically vulnerable.”
Families First is part of Greater Seacoast Community Health, which also includes Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth, Lilac City Pediatrics in Rochester, the Strafford County Public Health Network and SOS Recovery Community Organization. Services are open to everyone and aim to be respectful, recovery-friendly, LGBTQ-affirming and trauma-informed. For more information, visit GetCommunityHealth.org and HealthCenterWeek.org.