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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Friend Health’s Woodlawn Center Opens This Month, Bringing Family, Behavioral, Women’s Health To ‘Underserved’ Area

The center will be "a place where the people of Woodlawn and the South Side of Chicago come not only for healing, but to maintain and support healthy lifestyles," a health official said.

A group including Samir Mayekar, Deputy Mayor for Economic and Neighborhood Development (second from left) and DL3 managing partner Leon Walker (at right in suit) tours the exterior of the Friend Health Woodlawn Health Center Friday.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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WOODLAWN — A 45,000-square-foot health center will open in Woodlawn this month in an effort to improve the neighborhood’s health outcomes.

Friend Health’s Woodlawn Health Center, 6250 S. Cottage Grove Ave., will bring pediatric, behavioral, mental, obstetrics, gynecology and immediate health care as well as a pharmacy and community hub next to the Cottage Grove Green Line stop.

Staff will move in to start making appointments and opening programs July 18, and the center will be fully open within a month, Friend Health chief operating officer Wendy Thompson said.

A second phase, to be built across from the center on Evans Avenue, will provide dental services, executive offices and retail space. Friend Health will move its headquarters to the campus from its former home at 800 E. 55th St. in Hyde Park.

“It is our intent that this beautiful facility will serve as a hub for community well-being — a place where the people of Woodlawn and the South Side of Chicago come not only for healing, but to maintain and support healthy lifestyles,” Friend Health CEO Verneda Bachus said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.

The center opens in an area that’s “medically underserved,” officials said, meaning the community has few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty or a high elderly population.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Friend Health CEO Verneda Bachus speaks at Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The health care provided at the center will be “culturally competent,” meaning staff members are “reflective of our community” and patients will receive care that considers their lives outside of their medical needs, Thompson said.

Friend Health will also connect patients with needed services, like housing programs for patients experiencing homelessness, she said.

“We know that health is more than just medical, so we want to make sure we’re treating the holistic patient,” Thompson said.

The $43 million project received $17 million in federal and state tax credits, $8 million in tax increment financing (TIF) funds, a $2.5 million Chicago Recovery Plan grant and $250,000 in federal appropriations.

The Woodlawn Health Center will help the city close its racial health gap and address decades of disinvestment in the neighborhood, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a Friday ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“With the grand opening of [the center], the residents of Woodlawn and others from surrounding communities will finally receive the local access to vital health care that they have always deserved and needed,” Lightfoot said.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Mayor Lori Lightfoot (center) and Deputy Mayor for Economic and Neighborhood Development Samir Mayekar (right) finish a tour of the Friend Health Woodlawn Health Center July 8.

The community health center, which repurposed a former beauty supply and furniture store, can help to revitalize an intersection that was once a center of activity for Black Chicago, soon-to-retire U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) said.

Rush linked the center’s opening to his time with the Black Panthers. The revolutionary group opened a free West Side clinic in 1969 named after Spurgeon “Jake” Winters, Rush’s fellow Panther who died in a shootout with police.

“That was part of the beginning of the whole [federally qualified health center] movement,” Rush said. “… I’m as excited as I was back in the early ’70s about providing health care opportunities and taking care of the health care needs of poor people, specifically.”

Health center developer DL3 Realty is also behind the Washington Park Bank redevelopment across 63rd Street from the center, the Park Station affordable housing development one block east at 63rd Street and Maryland Avenue and the Jewel-Osco two blocks north at 61st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.

The Woodlawn Health Center is part of a “four-corner solution” at 63rd and Cottage Grove “that, in the center of Woodlawn, will create a ripple effect that goes out and helps to nourish the rest of our community,” DL3 managing partner Leon Walker said.

Friend Health operates six other clinics across Chicago.

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