A History of Healthcare in North Omaha
Courtesy of Adam Fletcher Sasse
In the early 1980s, a group of strong and determined community activists came together to address the issue of access to healthcare for families living in the east/northeast sector of Douglas County — a community called North Omaha. This group was comprised of representatives for local community-based organizations, advocates, civil rights leaders, graduate students, and concerned citizens.
They were determined to change the healthcare delivery system in North Omaha; it was fueled by their understanding of the resilience of the community that they represented. The race riots of the 1960s resulted in once-thriving businesses being vacated by shop and business owners who chose to relocate farther west. The once-robust commerce, entertainment, employment, and nuclear families that populated North Omaha were deeply affected by the changes that occurred in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Many longtime Omaha residents point to the construction of the North Freeway in the 70s for having a devastating lasting impact on the once cohesive, stable community. Hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses were torn down during the freeway’s construction. Critics say this physical and symbolic barrier divided and damaged an area already reeling from late 60s riots that destroyed the North 24th Street business district and left families to seek services outside of the North Omaha community.
Grocery stores, pharmacies, retail shops, and health care were among the many services that began to disappear in North Omaha in the mid to late 70s. Private physicians located in the North Omaha community were diminishing and slowly disappeared.
With the belief that North Omaha possessed the ability to resolve the many social ills that characterized the area and its residents, community leaders sought federal funding to locate a health clinic in North Omaha. The criteria for the establishment of such a clinic required mandated community involvement and the provision of quality, affordable health care for anyone seeking health care services, regardless of their ability to pay.
The community health center concept became a much-sought-after answer to the lack of quality, affordable health care in North Omaha. In 1983, the coalition of community activists celebrated the news that Omaha, Nebraska had been awarded federal funding to start a community health center that would be located in the heart of the North Omaha community!
All rights reserved. © Adam Fletcher Sasse; https://northomahahistory.com