CommunityHealth was founded in 1993 by Serafino Garella, MD, a board-certified internist and nephrologist. Then chairman of the Department of Medicine at St. Joseph Hospital, Dr. Garella was struck by the growing number of uninsured people in Chicago, and he was curious about the extent of the crisis. He and a group of colleagues went door-to-door in several Chicago neighborhoods, asking people about their health care. Nearly half of the people he surveyed had no insurance, nor access to reliable health care.
Shocked by those results and driven by the belief that all people have the right to receive health care, Dr. Garella secured funding and a storefront location. His next step was to recruit several health care professionals to join him in providing care – and with that, CommunityHealth was born.
The clinic opened in 1993. At first, it was open just a few hours per week serving a few hundred patients in need. Over the years, as the demand for services ballooned and the number of volunteers has grown, CommunityHealth has relocated twice and greatly expanded its hours, services, and programs.
Thanks to a successful capital campaign, CommunityHealth owns the building that houses its West Town clinic. The West Town clinic was renamed the Lederman Family Health Center in 2005, in recognition of a major gift from longtime friend and contributor Sam Lederman.
In 2010, CommunityHealth opened a second clinic in Chicago’s south side Englewood neighborhood. In 2017, due to drastic changes in the needs of uninsured patients in Englewood thanks to the Affordable Care Act, CommunityHealth suspended its medical and dental services at that location (read more here). Today, we are the largest free clinic in the nation, providing more than 15,000 medical and dental visits and filling over 33,000 prescriptions for our patients annually.