Imagine being pregnant and never accessing a doctor during the entire pregnancy because you did not have insurance. Imagine coming into a hospital in labor and getting turned away because you were uninsured. It was not so long ago that these things happened. And they happened right here in Strafford County.
In 1969, one woman set out to change this and she did. Her name was Avis Goodwin.
In July of 1969 with one patient in her ninth month of pregnancy, Avis Goodwin, the Director of social services at Wentworth Douglass Hospital founded the first prenatal clinic in the county. It all started in response to the problem of women appearing in the emergency room in labor having had no prenatal care. She wanted to create change around this problem and began gathering volunteers and donations. Everything from medication and formula to space and services were donated. The volunteers s assisted twenty-nine patients that first year. They grew to serve ninety-seven patients in just two years. Then in 1971 the group was incorporated as a non-profit prenatal and family planning clinic.
In 1973 The Clinic opened a site in Rochester in the Sarah Kendall Building at Frisbie Memorial Hospital and it was during this time that the name was established as “Strafford County Prenatal & Family Planning Program”. To offer the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program in Strafford country the agency began contracting with the NH Division of Public Health Services in 1978 which was a great step in providing WIC services to the community. Over the next decade the agency expanded its services to add such programs as Sexually Transmitted Disease Screening and Treatment and AIDS/HIV testing and counseling services with Federal Center of Disease Control (CDC) funds.
In 1990 the agency added Commodity Supplemental Food Program for children and in 1994 expanded this service to include the elderly. As the community needs grew so did the agency and to determine the needs for primary care services in Strafford county the agency received a Needs Assessment Grant from the Division of Public Health Services. The agency began to transition to a community health center and with community support primary care services began in 1994. Using family practice providers, this allowed the agency to address the whole patient.
In 1996 the State’s community health centers joined together to form Community Health Access Network (CHAN) allowing the health centers to share services. The Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Prevention Program was established in 1997. With the opening of the dental department in 2004, the agency had the opportunity to provide a much needed service to the community. This program continues to grow and now participates in the school-based dental program. In 2004 with support from a HRSA grant and guidance from a local behavioral health visionary, Dr. Sandra Rose, the organization became a very early adopter of integrating behavioral health services directly into primary care.
With education and prevention still being a major focus, the agency continues to educate its patients with its many chronic disease control management, education programs, group wellness and substance disorder services. Uniquely, Goodwin patients can access primary, prenatal, pediatric, dental and behavioral health care, all in one location/one health system designed for better overall coordination of care.
Goodwin Community Health is now a designated Federally Qualified Health Center and a Level 3 Certified Medical Home. In 2014 all locations and services moved into one new Center conveniently located under one roof along the medical corridor of Route 108 in Somersworth. This agency is proof that with patience, great goals, and the support of a strong community, an amazing community health center can be born. Serving the needs of its patients for a healthier life and standing by its mission, “To provide quality healthcare that is accessible to all people in the community.”
Avis Goodwin passed away peacefully on December 27th, 2014. Her insight, caring, leadership, and inspiration, is very much alive. Every day the Goodwin Community Health family of staff, patients, volunteers and supporters keep her dreams and spirit active in finding new ways to remove the barriers that cause health disparities in our community. Just like Avis, together, we are leading the way and blazing new trails so that every person in the communities we serve can access the care they need.