Mission & History

Mission

Creating access to high quality integrated health care and promoting well-being for individuals, families and our communities.

Vision

Communities Engaged for Health

Values

We listen, consider and care. We respect the individual strengths and diverse experiences of the people we serve and all of our employees.

We commit to working together. We provide integrated care through teamwork and collaboration.

We hold ourselves accountable. We work to the best of our abilities and commit to open communication.

We encourage curiosity and growth. We strive to continually improve through innovation and the use of best practices.

We focus on our future. We ensure financial sustainability through efficient practices and management.

History of HCHC

Hilltown Community Health Centers, Inc. (HCHC) is a non-profit organization, which consists of two Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC); the Worthington Health Center and the Huntington Health Center, as well as the Gateway School-Based Health Center, located at Gateway Regional Middle/High School, and the Hilltown Community Center, both in Huntington.

The history of HCHC is an interesting one. In 1922, personnel at the Red Cross in Western Massachusetts decided to provide high-quality nursing services to residents of the Hilltowns, in keeping with standards they had developed during World War I and the 1918 flu epidemic. These services included bedside nursing of those with chronic conditions as well as prenatal care, education about the birthing process, assistance to doctors in delivering babies, and postnatal care of both mothers and babies. They also served as school nurses. Seven different nurses provided this service between 1922 and 1927, their tenure affected by difficult travel conditions (there were no paved roads), the huge geographical area that needed to be covered, and the large scope of services they were expected to provide. In 1927, some of the Hilltowns appropriated funds to hire a separate school nurse, thus helping reduce the load a little.

In 1930, Ms. Florence Berry was hired as the 10th Red Cross nurse to serve the Hilltowns. Unable to convince her Red Cross bosses that additional nurses were needed to provide adequate coverage, Ms. Berry resigned and was soon hired as the Town Nurse for the town of Worthington. She continued her hard work throughout the years, moved to Worthington after marrying Harry Bates in 1936, and worked with several physicians in the Hilltown communities. She remained diligent and committed to making certain that health care was available to all Hilltown residents. True to this commitment, she was instrumental in founding the Worthington Health Association (WHA) in 1949.

One year later, the Worthington Health Association opened the Worthington Medical Center. The idea was to attract young physicians just starting out in practice by providing free of charge the support services needed to run an office. Initially housed in a room in the town’s Lyceum Hall building, medical services were provided by a part-time physician and by Ms. Bates. Shortly after opening its doors, Ms. Bates was able to obtain some second-hand dental equipment and the services of two semi-retired dentists were soon offered. The providers were allowed to keep their fees and Ms. Bates was paid through donations and memberships but anyone who needed services was helped, regardless of ability to pay.

Despite extensive renovations underwritten by the WHA in 1955, by the early 1960s the town had decided to sell Lyceum Hall. Following lengthy discussions among the board members, the decision was made not to try to buy or renovate the Lyceum Hall building. Board members and long-time supporters Helen and Roy McCann, donated land across the road from their home on Old North Road for both elder housing and for a medical center. They also donated a sizeable sum towards building costs. Active fundraising within the community raised the remainder. The new facility opened at its current location in the winter of 1965, now renamed the Worthington Health Center. The model established by Ms. Bates continued and her heroic efforts at fundraising and her service, often without pay, allowed the organization to continue and grow.

More information about Ms. Bates and the history of the health center can be found on the Worthington Historical Society’s web page.

Mental Health counseling services and other medical and health education services were added throughout the years. Community residents also came to trust in and depend more and more on the quality services they received through the Health Center, regardless of their ability to pay for care. With expansion and the withdrawal of an ailing Ms. Bates from active service, the donation-based financial model became unsustainable and in 1976 the decision was made to seek federal grant funding and to hire providers on a salaried basis. The Worthington Health Center was designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) serving a Medically Underserved Area, with the mission of meeting the community’s medical, dental, and mental health needs regardless of ability to pay. State licensure soon followed.

With a growing demand for services in the southern Hilltowns, in 1981 an affiliate – The Family Health Center – was established in an old house in Huntington to provide medical services to residents of Blandford, Chester, Huntington, Montgomery and Russell. While the providers were popular, the inadequacy of the facility soon became apparent and in 1987, land was acquired and the Huntington Health Center was built. It opened in November 1988. The new Health Center offered medical, dental, mental health, and health education services. Not long after as a reflection of its expanded mission, the organization changed its name to “Hilltown Community Health Centers, Inc.”

Further important expansion occurred in 1998 when HCHC established the Gateway School-Based Health Center, in response to serious health care and mental health needs of students of the Gateway Regional Middle and High School. More than 80% of all students are enrolled in this Health Center, attesting to the tremendous need for services.

In October 2002 we saw the completion of the 5,300 square foot addition to our Worthington Health Center building. This brought increased and much needed space to our medical, dental, and behavioral health departments, all of which were serving a growing number of patients. And in April 2006 was the ground breaking of the Huntington Health Center expansion. In 2010, the Huntington Health Center expanded again by offering comprehensive eye care services to adults and children.

For over 65 years, we have provided quality services to increasing numbers of individuals. In keeping with Nurse Bates’ original vision, no one is ever turned away due to an inability to pay for services. Hilltown families have established trusting relationships with our health care providers and we are proud to continue the tradition of meeting the needs of Hilltown citizens and beyond.