July 21, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary for the Holyoke Health Center (HHC). HHC was established during the war on poverty, and has dedicated their medical, dental and pharmacy services to improve the health of the community members living in downtown Holyoke and surrounding areas for the past 50 years.
Opening as a component of the federally supported Model Cities Program, HHC outgrew its small building in the ‘Flats’ neighborhood of Holyoke, and developed a highly successful facility across from City Hall; this project being the single largest downtown development to occur in Holyoke. The current HHC facility is over 100,000 sq. ft., large enough to meet the needs of over 20,000 patients. The complex of 4 integrated buildings includes a large innovative community pharmacy staffed by 14 pharmacists, the area’s largest dental services program which includes adult, pediatric and orthodontic services, the Center for Recovery & Support that treats hundreds of patients with substance use disorders, a growing Eye Care program, and its flagship comprehensive medical program serving children, adolescents, adults and elderly patients. To meet the needs of patients in surrounding communities, HHC built additional locations in Chicopee to provide medical, dental and pharmacy services, and Westfield to provide additional dental services.
HHC’s success has been in building teams of dedicated professionals within a staff of over 300 employees, many of whom grew up and still reside in the Holyoke community and have a unique awareness and connectivity to the issues faced by the community members and patients. Understanding the social determinants that led to many of the patients’ health problems has led to the development of numerous community programs created over the years at HHC that have contributed to better care and improved health outcomes.
Throughout the past 50 years, HHC has responded to health issues connected to low-income status, including the HIV/AIDS epidemic. HHC took the lead in responding to the epidemic in the community by conducting research, education, screening, and ultimately developing a highly successful medical team to treat the illness. During the 1980s, HIV/AIDS treatment was not widely available and HHC was one of the only health care providers in the area delivering HIV/AIDS care and providing treatment. Now, with the COVID-19 global pandemic, HHC is again taking the local lead in education, prevention and treatment, supporting contact tracing, providing drive through testing, and quickly establishing clinical approaches to contain and treat the virus, while it is spreading and rearranging the way our community lives and works.
HHC has been at the forefront of creating a teaching facility to train the health care providers of tomorrow. Residency programs in Adult Dentistry, Pediatric Dentistry, Pharmacy and a new Family Nurse Practitioner program are currently bringing 16 professionals from across the country to HHC each year. Many residents participating in our programs go on to join the permanent staff of HHC, ensuring that the services and programs developed over the past 50 years will continue to thrive and evolve.