When Susan Broman, Executive Director of the Steelcase Foundation, called Ellen Satterlee, her counterpart at the Wege Foundation, about Catherine’s Health Center, Ellen agreed to check it out. The non-profit general-practice clinic for Grand Rapids’ low-income and medically underserved was not a typical Wege Foundation grantee.
But Ellen knew Broman would not have made the unusual request if she didn’t think Catherine’s was a special case. Not far into her visit, Peter Wege’s executive director understood why Susan had called. CHC’s mission is directed at the working poor: the people who make too much for Medicaid, but whose subsistence jobs don’t offer health insurance.
Named for Catherine McAuley, the 18th Century founder of the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine’s provides medical care, screening, and health education to people from all over Grand Rapids. Some 85% of CHC’s regular patients have no insurance, but pay $10 for a visit – when they can. And while drug companies get a bad rap for their prices, Dr. John Walen – CHC’a staff physician – works with them to get free medications. Last year Dr. Walen’s patients received $700,000 worth of free pharmaceuticals.
Catherine’s came to be in 1996 under the auspices of Saint Mary’s Health Services after a nearby well-child clinic closed. Until this year, Catherine’s operated out of 1200-square foot corner in the basement of St. Alphonsus Church. Thanks to the generosity of donors like Steelcase and The Wege Foundation, in 2011 Catherine’s moved next door into the former Alphonsus grade school remodeled into a 6800 square-foot health clinic. The $1.3 million new CHC space earned a LEED Silver Medal from the U.S. Green Building Council.
In 2005, Catherine’s became independent from Saint Mary’s. Today Catherine actively partners with many other human-service agencies, demonstrated by CHC’s earning the first annual Douglas Mack Award for collaboration and improving the health status of our community.