Evanston, Skokie patients flock to Erie Family Health Center

Edward Cox, Assistant City Editor

Evanston and Skokie residents in need of affordable health care have been flocking to the Erie Family Health Center, according to a report released Thursday by the center.

The federally qualified health center, temporarily located at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, provides care to low-income residents and uninsured individuals. It admitted 143 more medical visits than it was budgeted for from its opening in October last year to the end of January.

In addition, the facility recorded 45 more dental visits than expected during the same period.

“The whole point is they haven’t been able to access care until now,” said Dana Kelly, the center’s government affairs managerduring a 2nd Ward meeting Friday. “It’s a little bit shocking and gratifying that we’ve been able to help.”

In a meeting with the center’s representatives last month, Skokie health director Catherine Counard said she learned one-third of the patients who visited the center were Skokie residents.

“There are no facilities in Skokie for people who don’t have insurance,” Counard said. “People have an easier time imagining people have direct need (for health care) in cities, but that is also true in suburban areas.”

The health center set up its temporary establishment in the Civic Center’s basement after receiving an annual operating grant of $650,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Since the partnership between Evanston, Skokie and local hospitals came to fruition, the facility has provided medical and dental services to patients, many of whom have not been to a hospital for years, Kelly said. The facility is planning to move to an expanded location at 1285 Hartrey Ave. in August.

Counard said the new location is closer to public transportation and the Skokie border, which could make health care more accessible to Skokie residents. Health care for the uninsured has been absent in Skokie for years, even though the village had reached out to federally qualified health centers and Cook County for affordable health care, she said. 

The new facility will include 15 exam rooms and five dental suites, as well as accommodate 30,000 patient visits a year. The Erie Evanston/Skokie Health Center will also provide behavioral care and health education.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), whose ward encompasses the temporary health center, said more people have taken advantage of its services as word of mouth spread.

“They’ve been able to help people who really didn’t have an option,” Holmes said.