Background and History

Executive Summary

CommWell Health (formerly Tri-County Community Health Clinic) began as a part-time migrant health program supported by the Sampson County Health Department in 1976. The following year Tri-County Community Health Council, Inc. (TCCHC) was founded, and over time has grown from its initial site near Newton Grove and Spivey’s Corner to a corporation of eight locations across southeastern North Carolina. In November 2009 the Board of TCCHC approved the name CommWell Health.

 

Center Name

Services Offered

County

CommWell Health Newton Grove/Spivey’s Corner

Medical, Dental, Pharmacy, WIC, Behavioral Health, Substance Abuse Rehabilitation & Positive Life-HIV/AIDS

Sampson

CommWell Health Salemburg

Medical, Dental, WIC & Behavioral Health

Sampson

CommWell Health McGee's Crossroads OB/GYN & Pediatrics Johnston
CommWell Health
Smithfield
Medical Johnston

CommWell Health Tar Heel

Medical, Pharmacy & Behavioral Health

Bladen

CommWell Health Dublin

Dental

Bladen

CommWell Health Penderlea

Medical & Dental

Pender

CommWell Health Harrells

Medical

Sampson

CommWell Health Four Oaks

Dental

Johnston

CommWell Health Ocean Isle

Medical & Dental

Brunswick

Angelic House Behavioral Health Wayne
Harvest House Behavioral Health Sampson

Building Bridges

Behavioral Health & Crisis Walk In

Sampson

 

Originally, the name Tri-County denoted the partnership between Sampson, Johnston and Harnett Counties in establishing a comprehensive community health center. Now CommWell Health sites serve individuals located in Sampson, Cumberland, Johnston, Bladen, Brunswick, Pender, Harnett, Wayne, Hoke, Duplin and Robeson Counties.

 

 

Mission Statement

Compassionate delivery of quality medical, dental and behavioral health care services for all.

 

Vision Statement

To be recognized and respected as a premiere community health center in the nation.

 

Core Values

Competence

Respect

Integrity

Teamwork

Innovative

Cultural Sensitivity

 

Motto

Fighting Disease, Fostering Health

 

History

For more than thirty years, Tri-County Community Health Council, Inc. (TCCHC) has been an integral part of the eastern North Carolina region. The success of the nonprofit award-winning organization has developed on its ability to change to meet the needs of those it serves, while remaining steadfast to its day-one commitment: providing quality healthcare to the medically underserved.

 

TCCHC was founded by humble means for a noble goal – to help the 10,000-plus migrant workers who come to the region annually for the agricultural harvesting of sweet potatoes, tobacco and cucumbers. These farmworkers, many of them from Mexico, continue to serve an important role in the agriculturally driven economy of the area. But for decades, the migrant workforce and their families faced language and financial barriers prohibiting many from receiving any type of professional healthcare.

 

In 1976 through the federally funded Migrant Health Program, the health departments of Sampson and Johnston counties joined together to form a health center for this special-needs population. The Sampson-Johnston Migrant Health Clinic was established in a former country store, located three miles west of the town of Newton Grove, on U.S. Highway 13.

 

Family nurse practitioner Juanita Morrison Henderson served as the first medical provider for the clinic, with Dr. Romeo Lewis as the backup physician. In the first year of operation, more than 5,000 people were provided with basic health care services. The demand was great, and the clinic was steadfast in offering help to the migrant population.

 

In 1977 Harnett County joined the alliance shifting the clinic’s impact to a more regional one. During that same year, on November 30, another milestone for the clinic was achieved – it formed its own board and became incorporated as the TCCHC. The formation of the independent clinic provided the opportunity to serve the medical needs of thousands of disadvantaged seasonal and migrant farmworkers in the area.

 

With an increasing population seeking healthcare from the center and a broadening slate of services being offered, a bigger building was needed. In 1981 building constructions was made possible through a $291,000 loan from the Farmers Home Administration. TCCHC relocated near Timothy Cross Roads, between Spivey’s Corner and Newton Grove, at 3331 Easy Street, which continues to serve as home to the council’s twelve-acre headquarters campus today.

 

Growing needs also meant the council’s staff had to expand. The year after moving to its new location on Easy Street, the first permanent staff physician, Barbara G. Cler, M.D., joined the center. In 1984 dental services were added, as the council evolved from a focused community program to a broader medical care center.

 

In 1986 brought in a new broadened perspective to operating the council. Focus went to increasing services and expanding outreach initiatives into eastern North Carolina, while maintaining quality healthcare. Specifically the council envisioned facilities that provided for all medical needs including dental and behavioral resources, to the medically underserved and disadvantaged.

 

TCCHC introduced several much-needed programs, including maternity care. The numbers in the Hispanic community were rapidly rising for both substance abuse treatment and HIV/AIDS care, so the centers also sought grants and created programs to meet those specific and urgent needs.

 

While maintaining medical services – and in many cases a true lifeline to the migrant workers – TCCHC opened its doors to the general population of the community, again, shifting its services but remained focused on quality care. With the aging of farm workers and the toll of a shifting economy on small family farms, permanent residents were welcomed at the center.

 

Another significant change for the council was its introduction of Harvest House. First opened in 1994, this ten-bed halfway house, located on the main campus, offered the state’s first bilingual intensive drug-addiction recovery program. Before Harvest House opened its doors, the community expressed resistance and concerns, mostly based on fear of the unknown. Soon, area residents came to understand the important role the facility played in the community. Harvest House has been part of not only saving hundreds of lives from drug addiction, but it has changed perceptions along the way as well.

 

The new millennium brought substantial growth to the organization. In 2001 the center opened its first satellite site, Carolina Pines Community Health Center, in nearby Salemburg. On track for exponential growth, TCCHC would be able to provide medical care on a more regional scope.

 

Just two years after opening the first center, a second was introduced in Bladen County N.C. In 2004 the Health Center in Pender County was opened and in 2005, the company marked it fourth satellite site with the addition a medical center in Harrells, N.C.

 

CommWell Health has been recognized time and time again for its efforts in offering comprehensive care to the tens of thousands of people it serves annually – many of whom would forgo necessary medical attention if the center did not provide it.

 

Among its distinctions, CommWell Health and its staff have been awarded the Cecilia B. Abbold Award for Outreach Services, the Robert Wood Johnson Leadership Award of the Harold E. Hughes Award for Excellence in Rural Treatment Program, the HRSA Excellence in Cultural Competency Award and the Joint Commission Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations.

 

Today CommWell Health provides a comprehensive approach to healthcare for the region, providing clients with a vast spectrum of medical, dental and behavioral-heath services. It also impacts the communities in which it serves as a viable business partner.

 

CommWell Health received its first JCAHO accreditation in February 2001 and is received its fourth reaccreditation in 2010. The agency has a over 30-year history of providing quality, culturally and linguistically competent health care to Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans and Caucasians.

 

October 2009 the Leadership of TCCHC wrote new Mission, Vision, Values and Motto. All were approved by the Board of Directors at their October 21, 2009 meeting.

 

At the November 24, 2009 TCCHC Board meeting, members voted to change the operating name to CommWell Health. At that day the logo was also approved.

 

 

Sites

CommWell Health’s main site in Newton Grove (northern Sampson County) offers comprehensive medical, dental and mental health and substance abuse treatment services. Additional services include on-site laboratory and pharmacy services, x-ray, Ryan White funded HIV care, and an on-site residential substance abuse treatment facility, nutrition, WIC, and maternity care coordination.

 

TCCHC opened its first satellite site in 2001, in Salemburg, Sampson County. CommWell Health Salemburg (formerly Carolina Pines Community Health Center) provides a comprehensive array of medical, dental and behavioral health care services and WIC to all community members including low-income community members and migrant/seasonal farmworkers.

 

CommWell Health’s second satellite site was opened in 2003 in Bladen County. CommWell Health Tar Heel (formerly known as Bladen Lakes Community Health Center) successfully replicated the Salemburg model of services provision.

 

The third satellite was established, August 2004, in Pender County. CommWell Health Penderlea (formerly known as Homestead Health Center) serves a community with an overwhelming 75 percent of the population living below 200 percent of the poverty level. The opportunity for the Penderlea site came about by the hard work of community members, the County School Board and County Commissioners who arranged land use not needed by the local middle school.

 

CommWell Health’s fourth satellite came about as collaboration between Rural Medical Services, the North Carolina Office of Research, Demonstrations and Rural Health Development, and Sampson Regional Hospital with the Tri-County Community Health Council assuming the management and patient care at CommWell Health Harrells (formerly known as Four County Medical Center), serving southern Sampson county, October 2005.

 

The fifth satellite was established in 2007: CommWell Health Four Oaks (formerly known as Carolina Oaks Community Health Center), opened in October 2007, the result of the Bureau of Primary Health Care New Access Point funding from the federal agency Health Resources and Services Administration 07-067 (December 2006).

 

In 2011, CommWell Health opened three new locations Angelic House in Goldsboro, Building Bridges in Clinton, and CommWell Health of Smithfield in Smithfield.  Construction began for the new Harvest House.

 

In 2012, CommWell Health completed construction and moved  residents into new Harvest House, and opened a new OB/GYN/Pediatric practice at McGee’s Crossroads.

 

Services

CommWell Health target populations include commercial insurance, Medicare and Medicaid patients, uninsured/underinsured, low-income adults, children and families, with a focus on migrant and seasonal farmworkers, minority populations and those who are geographically or socially isolated. The organization accepts insurance including Medicare and Medicaid. For those without insurance CommWell Health offers a sliding fee scale, based upon income and family size. The largest percentage of CommWell Health consumers resides in Sampson, Johnston, Harnett, Bladen and Pender counties. These communities are rural and consist of populations greatly dependent on agriculture. Forty-one agricultural commodities are produced in this area. Less than 30 percent in this five county area are insured. Health status for these areas is poor, with higher than state averages for cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes and cancer. CommWell Health’s primary and secondary services are extensive because of the lack of availability of culturally and linguistically appropriate services in other area agencies. Many community members from eastern Cumberland and other surrounding counties also access services offered by CommWell Health due to location, expertise and the fact that all services are provided in English and Spanish.

 

The hallmark of CommWell Health’s services is a commitment to avoid fragmented care to patients whenever possible. Oral health services including preventative and restorative are available at all sites, except CommWell Health sites in Tar Heel, Harrells and Four Oaks. All sites have strong linkages with specialty service providers – these linkages allow for a comprehensive referral network.

 

In 2009, a full time pediatrician was added to CommWell Health of Newton Grove/Spivey’s Corner; with an additional pediatrician in 2012.

 

In 2010, Mid Wife services were add to CommWell Health of Newton Grove/Spivey’s Corner. Full time OB/GYN services were added to CommWell Health in 2012.