In 1975 a pediatrician named Dr. Thomas Whitfield was seeing children show up at his practice for their Kindergarten physicals having not seen a doctor since birth or infancy. Children lacked immunizations, and many had medical problems and delays in language, social, and cognitive skills due to isolation. He founded the Children’s Health Program to provide health care for rural children who had no access to care.
Staff traveled back roads in a station wagon to find children who needed care and to help them access services. Shepherded by Dr. Whitfield and Children’s Health Program’s first Executive Director, Linda Small, the agency went on to create a range of parenting support and childhood education services (the Family Support Network), launched a WIC program, and initiated the First Steps program to provide early intervention therapies for children with delays or disabilities.
As the needs of the Berkshire community grew, CHP responded. In 2000, after 25 years of serving children, the Children’s Health Program made a giant leap and obtained federal designation for its health center, opening the doors to adults and elders. Due to the tremendous dearth of health care services now accessible to Berkshire county residents, the newly re-named Community Health Program’s (CHP) caseload grew virtually overnight from 1,500 to over 4,000. Many adult patients were former pediatric patients who had received care from Children’s Health Program for their entire lives.
In 2007, CHP assumed ownership and responsibility for Barrington OB/GYN, a thriving practice in Great Barrington providing comprehensive women’s health care services to women of all ages. In 2008, the Neighborhood Health Center in Pittsfield transitioned to CHP ownership from Berkshire Health Systems to become CHP’s second health center. That same year, in response to the desperate need for accessible, affordable dental care in south Berkshire County, CHP opened the CHP Dental Center in Great Barrington. In an exciting development in 2009, CHP acquired nearly 8 acres with 3 buildings on Stockbridge Road (Route 7) in Great Barrington, which enabled consolidation of most of CHP’s south county programs into one health and wellness “home”. To further improve the accessibility of health care to Berkshire residents in need of a medical home, CHP welcomed the staff and practitioners at Lee Family Practice to its medical team in 2012. In December of 2015, Adams Internists and North Adams Family Medicine joined our team to provide full coverage of Berkshire County. The latest addition to the CHP service family is Neighborhood Dental Center. A full service dental practice in Pittsfield added October 2016.
When times are tough, more neighbors and friends need CHP. In the past year, CHP has experienced a remarkable 26% growth rate. We are grateful for the generous, continuing support of individuals, corporations, foundations and other funding sources which enables us to continue to meet the needs of our community.