Opened in 1963, Blue Ridge Health has its roots in providing migrant farm workers with healthcare. In fact, Blue Ridge Health is the nation’s oldest migrant health center and today provides family and pediatric medical services as well as dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, school-based care, and outreach services to patients across western North Carolina.
More than 50 years ago, The Migrant Health Center was started by Claire Heyden Burson, a Public Health nurse who had moved to Hendersonville after spending time working in the Caribbean. She and her colleagues and friends worked together to staff the early center. It was a time when farm worker rights were being noticed. When President John Kennedy signed the Migrant Health Act into law in 1962, the Migrant Health Center could receive federal funds.
In 1987, The Migrant Health Center evolved to become Blue Ridge Community Health Services (BRCHS) - a year-round health center open to the entire community. At first, the health center was a full-time family practice. In 1992, a pediatric practice was opened, followed by a dental clinic for children in 1995.
Eventually Blue Ridge Community Health Services would add dental services for adults in 2005 and behavioral health services in 2006, and an on-site Pharmacy in 2009.
In 1993, BRCHS opened the first school-based health center (SBHC) in Henderson County, providing students access to comprehensive nursing, medical, behavioral health, and nutrition services. In 2008, three additional SBHCs opened at two elementary schools, and a high school, providing healthcare for over 2,000 students. In 2013, five additional schools were linked to existing SBHC’s, providing access to more than 6,000 students in Henderson County.
In 2009, Blue Ridge Community Health Services began planning for the construction of a new medical facility, Blue Ridge Health at Chimney Rock Road, which opened in late 2011. The state-of-the art building serves as the medical home to thousands of individuals and houses family medicine, pediatrics, behavioral health, on-site pharmacy, lab and radiology. Dental services and administrative offices reside in a separate building also located on the campus.
In October 2012, BRCHS opened a second health center in Transylvania County. Then, in 2013, Blue Ridge Community Health Services assumed the operations of Hendersonville Family Health Center as part of a partnership with Pardee Hospital and Mountain Area Health Education Center Family Practice Residency to establish the first Health Resource Services Administration-funded teaching health center in North Carolina. Two additional sites – one in Rutherford County and the other in Buncombe county – were opened in 2014.
This year Blue Ridge Community Health Services grew even further by adding new health center locations in Polk county and Haywood County. The Haywood County location was established in collaboration with Haywood Regional Medical Center.
As Blue Ridge Community Health Services continues to grow, the organization will move forward under its new name, Blue Ridge Health.