Community Health Center: 40 Years Fighting for the Right to Quality Health Care

Last night Kari and I attended a celebration of the Community Health Center’s 40th anniversary, which was also an opportunity to marvel at the organization’s new building in Middletown’s North End at 675 Main Street. The facility is super-green, with a wonderful rooftop garden that will be a place where local schoolchildren can learn about taking care of plants (and themselves). Most important, the new building will help CHC continue to provide quality care to patients who don’t have the resources to pay for it.

Throughout the evening we met many Wesleyan alumni who have been active participants in the CHC. One of the most famous of those in attendance was John Hickenlooper ’74, Governor of Colorado, to whom Wes presented  an MA in 1980 and an honorary doctorate in 2010.

In the early years, John was shoulder to shoulder with the founder and CEO of CHC, Mark Masselli, who along with wife and KidCity founder, Jennifer Alexander ’88, received an honorary degree in 2009. Mark and Jen are now Wesleyan parents (P’15, P ’16), and so our connections continue to grow.

It was a great night to celebrate an organization that began with basic community organizing, developed into a free clinic, and which now serves more than 130,000 residents in Connecticut. As Mark puts it: “In the early ’70s, we were a group of Middletown activists and students from Wesleyan University, and we were inspired by the idea that ‘heath care is a right, not a privilege’.  It was a time when social change was sweeping the country, and we were part of that — the fact that we were able to grow from those early years as a free clinic to the CHC of today is due to the tremendous support and encouragement we received from the community. We always had some older and wiser folks helping us build an organization for the long-term.”

Congratulations to Mark and his great team! They offer a great model for providing health care, and a model for getting things done with powerful community partnerships. I am so proud that Wesleyan is one of those partners!!