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The Importance of Ongoing Stakeholder Support for Community Health Centers

Written by Alexander Rossel, CEO of Families Together of Orange County.

Community Health Centers have a rich history, dating back to 1965 when Drs. H. Jack Geiger and Count D. Gibson Jr. established the first health centers in Massachusetts and Mississippi to address the healthcare needs of underserved populations. These centers, born out of President Johnson’s Office of Economic Opportunity, received bipartisan support and have grown to over 1,200 across the country. Today, they stand as crucial healthcare hubs, providing essential services to communities facing barriers in accessing quality healthcare.

Without the help of prominent figures in the medical industry and elected officials fighting for people’s rights to healthcare, Community Health Centers would not exist as we know them today. Partnerships with people who care about ensuring that everyone has access to the high quality healthcare they deserve is essential to the maintenance and expansion of community health centers. Those of us who work in the medical industry understand that stakeholders play a crucial role behind the scenes in helping us achieve our goals.

Families Together of Orange County (FTOC) is just one health center that has seen the direct impact of stakeholder support, and perhaps the most prominent example sits with our largest event, Christmas Together.  Over the years, Christmas Together has grown exponentially to become the largest toy giveaway event in Orange County. 

For the last two years, FTOC has given away more than 20,000 toys to underprivileged children, and hosted more than 30,000 individuals at the event – but with this expansion came a need for a space big enough to hold it. With campaigning and support from elected officials, the city of Anaheim graciously allowed Families Together to host the event at the Anaheim Convention Center, providing the necessary space to make it all possible. 

Partners have been invaluable throughout FTOC’s journey, especially during crisis situations like the attack our vaccine clinic faced in 2021 while administering Covid-19 vaccines. In response to the incident, our district Senator immediately offered his support, issuing a statement condemning the attack and emphasizing the consequences such actions would face. Their ongoing support and collaboration have been crucial to our mission of helping the community.

Despite all the fantastic work that stakeholders have done for Community Health Centers, there is still much left to achieve. According to a 2018 report, 44% of Californians lack sufficient access to a primary care provider and with the continuation of Medi-Cal redeterminations, there will be an influx of people in need of community health center services. FTOC looks forward to the continued partnership between our clinics and the elected officials and partners who work tirelessly to help us reach our goals. Together, we can continue to make a difference in our communities.