Western North Carolina Community Health Services, Inc. (WNCCHS) is a private, non-profit, tax-exempt corporation based in Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina.
During the last decade of the 20th century, Buncombe County experienced significant growth. The decade was also marked by explosive growth in health care costs. These trends were accompanied by sustained increases in the number of uninsured persons, placing the local health care safety net under unrelenting strain. This combination of factors made clear our community needed additional financial resources - particularly for preventive and primary health care.
In late 1993, a group of community activists, led by Carlos Gomez, Minnie Jones, and Dr. Polly Ross, formed a non-governmental organization (NGO) that met the definition of a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). The idea was to leverage local resources with those provided by the Federal government to FQHCs.
The process to FQHC status was long and hard. The timeline below provides a summary of our history through major milestones.
December of 1993: Obtained non-profit corporation status in North Carolina.
February of 1994: Obtained tax-exempt recognition from the Internal Revenue Service
April of 1994: Opened the Kenilworth Wellness Center (a day health program for persons with AIDS) at the Kenilworth Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC.
March of 1995: Received funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), through Part C (then Title III-b) of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act (then Ryan White Care Act), to provide comprehensive HIV medical care to persons living in the seventeen westernmost counties of NC. We hired the first paid staff. We served approximately 200 unduplicated patients by the end of the year.
April of 1996: Opened the Minnie Jones Family Health Center in the Pisgah View Apartments-Buncombe County's largest public housing development. We served approximately 400 unduplicated patients by the end of the year.
November of 1998: Inaugurated the Ridgelawn Health Center, a newly built, 4,000 square feet clinic in West Asheville. We opened our services to all persons - regardless of diagnosis. We served approximately 1,000 unduplicated patients by the end of the year.
November of 2002: Obtained designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike. We served approximately 2,000 unduplicated patients by the end of the year.
September of 2007: Obtained Section 330 (Community Health Center) funding from HRSA's Bureau of Primary Health Care. We served approximately 4,000 unduplicated patients by the end of the year.
January of 2010: Entered into a partnership with Buncombe County government to provide comprehensive primary health care to low-income County residents. By December 2010, we will provide medical, dental, and behavioral health care to more than 18,000 County residents.
Every resident of our service area will have access to a regular source of Primary Health Care.
We are a human rights-based Primary Health Care practice.
Our Primary Health Care practice is characterized by:
Accessibility: Providing culturally competent care, when our patients need it, at a cost individuals and the community can sustain.
Comprehensiveness: Addressing the main health issues of the community and providing preventive, acute, and chronic disease care through a multidisciplinary team of professional, paraprofessional, and lay workers.
Continuity: Coordinating life-long care across all parts of the service continuum.
Participation: Supporting our patients' engagement in all aspects of health care - from self-management to policy-making.
Quality: Systematically promoting safety, implementing evidence-based care, and tracking health outcomes.
Definition of Primary Health Care:
WNCCHS adheres to the following definition of Primary Health Care, by the Declaration of Alma-Ata, International conference on Primary Health Care, September 6-12, 1978: "Primary health care is essential health care based on practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community through their full participation and at a cost that the community and country can afford to maintain at every stage of their development in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determinations."
Specifically, WNCCHS provides the following three elements of Primary Health Care (PHC): 1) Maternal and child health - including family planning, 2) Treatment of common chronic diseases, and 3) Provision of essential drugs (as defined by the World Health Organization). We collaborate with public and non-governmental organizations on the other five elements of PHC, i.e., public education about prevailing health problems and methods of prevention and control, promotion of proper nutrition, adequate supply of safe water and basic sanitation, immunization against the major infectious diseases, prevention and control of locally endemic diseases.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 defined the notion of an "advanced primary care practice" and encouraged all Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC's) to become recognized as a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH). As the name implies, the PCMH is a specific model for the delivery of primary health care. WNCCHS believes the definition of Primary Health Care is consistent with PCMH.
Human Rights Based
The human rights-based approach to health care is grounded on the following documents: Universal Declaration of Human Rights; International covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); and General Comment No. 14: The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health. Grounded on these documents, a whole body of scholarship exists to guide health policy-making in a manner consistent with human rights principles.
Western North Carolina Community Health Services (WNCCHS) is the corporate entity that has legal responsibility for the governance of our work - specifically setting the policies and procedures that implement WNCCHS' vision and mission. Our Board of Directors, which serves as the corporation's governing body, reflects the economic, ethnic, and cultural diversity of the communities we serve. Because we are a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), the majority of the members of our Board of Directors must be consumers (patients) of our health services. Our Board of Directors also has community representatives that need not be our patients. All members serve on a volunteer basis and receive no financial benefit from the corporation. The Board has a committee structure that provides oversight for the following key areas: Quality Management, Financial Management, and Board Development. The entire Board of Directors meets on a monthly basis to discharge its responsibilities. Currently, the following individuals serve on our Board of Directors. (Board list)
The day-to-day management of the organization is delegated by the Board of Directors to the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who serves as an ex-officio member of the Board. The CEO is hired by and serves at the pleasure of the Board of Directors. The CEO's major responsibilities are to implement the policies and procedures approved by the Board, and to ensure the organization is compliant with all applicable laws, regulations, and contractual agreements. To help in this work, the CEO appoints a management team whose members provide more focused leadership and supervision to the staff.