The SICHC Story
Southern Indiana Community Health Care began in 1974 when a group of physicians and nurse practitioners shared a vision of serving vulnerable, medically underserved, rural communities with comprehensive “all under one roof” health care options.
In the early 1970’s, the Regenstrief Institute at the Indiana University Department of Medicine was conducting healthcare research and examining a variety of problems facing rural areas in Indiana. They were focused on national concerns about medical care in low-income, rural areas, and many philanthropic foundations funded rural health care centers that would act as models for service delivery in rural areas.
At the same time, the Orange County Physicians Recruitment Committee was organized to recruit physicians to combat the significant issues plaguing Orange County, including an aging population, inadequate staffing for the hospital’s emergency room, a health professional shortage of primary care physicians (HPSA), and a lack of healthcare services for low-income populations. At that time the doctor-patient ratio in the area was 1:3000 compared to the national average of 1:600.
Founding of SICHC
A small yet determined group of health care providers moved to Paoli, Indiana after completing their medical training at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. With the financial help of a Robert Woods Johnson Foundation (RWJ) grant, the medical group established the Comprehensive Health Care (CHC) office in Paoli.
The building provided space for acute and chronic medical care, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, mental health counseling, and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a federal nutritional assistance program; having all services available in one building was an important convenience for patients.
They initially received $400,000, one of 15 RWJ grants awarded to rural areas across the nation, and were able to hire a social worker, health educator, pastoral counselor, develop and purchase educational materials, attend meetings across the country to better prepare for rural health work, and develop best practice protocols to provide comprehensive care to their clients.
After decades of success, CHC expanded and opened new offices that now include offices in Paoli, Marengo, English, West Baden, Salem, and Shoals. With more sites, the collective health centers became Southern Indiana Community Health Care.
Impact on Community
From the beginning, our non-profit healthcare organization has made a significant impact on the entire community. Initially, SICHC contributed to local projects focused on helping vulnerable populations including WIC, the statewide Child Health nutrition and Immunization Project (CHIP) and referring patients to affordable childcare through Orange County Childcare Cooperative, formerly known as WeeCare.
Now, providers continue their commitment to community by providing health education in schools, assisting with athletics sport physicals, and offering a head injury/concussion program, promoting earth stewardship through recycling projects and establishing the Orange County Community Garden, and developing the Ways of Wellness community challenge designed for all community members to embrace healthy living.
Collaboration with other community agencies has become essential to address emerging challenges like adverse childhood experiences, social determinants of health, and value-driven preventative population healthcare. SICHC partners with Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement, faculty, and students to drive data informed programs in our community.
Further, SICHC increased the community’s access to health care by providing sliding fee discounts to eligible patients through the Community Health Assistance Fund (CHAP) with the intention to maintain the pride and self-respect of those individuals who qualify for this program.
SICHC provides care for people at all stages of life from infants and children to pregnancy services and adult care that includes hospital inpatient and nursing home. To ensure we are prepared to respond to current and future community needs, SICHC also offers mental health counseling, nutrition and wellness programs, and recovery medication assisted treatment (MAT).
SICHC is rooted in our small rural underserved communities, where our patients have the benefit of affordable health care close to home and where a patient is born into the world by the same doctor that cares for them as they grow into adulthood and beyond, which is rarely seen anywhere across the country.