Anyone who has visited or lived in or around Rockbridge County knows it is an area of immense natural beauty coupled with cultural and intellectual opportunities. With its population of approximately 36,000 and three institutions of higher learning the location gives the appearance of wealth. The continued influx of new residents and retirees from all over the county tends to accentuate that appearance. However, beneath the appearance of wealth exists a substrata of significant poverty.

The City of Buena Vista has traditionally been and remains a working-class town with most jobs affiliated with industry. Rockbridge County, with the exception of the colleges, is primarily rural with an economy based on farming. Both ways of life have changed little over the last fifty years. Many of these residents are uninsured or underinsured. In an attempt to meet the needs of this segment of the population, the Rockbridge Area Free Clinic was established in the early 1990’s.

In 1992 a group of concerned citizens began to develop the concept of a free clinic in Rockbridge County. They were able to organize interested medical and non-medical community volunteers in a project that became the Rockbridge Area Free Clinic. The first clinic was located in the local public health department and continued to grow with the patients it served and the services it provided.

The Rockbridge Area Free Clinic, recognizing the need to further develop a sustainable system of care for the medically underserved in the Rockbridge area, applied for and was awarded an $80,000 Health Center Planning Grant by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This grant was used to fund a 12-month project to broadly define and assess the health of our community and to develop a community health improvement plan.

Data from the community health needs assessment concluded that Buena Vista, Lexington, and Rockbridge County areas are designated as low-income and are therefore considered to be a ‘Medically Underserved Population’ and a ‘Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Area’. “Low-income” is defined by HRSA as an income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. In the Rockbridge area, 38 % of residents are low-income.

As a result of the community health needs assessment, RAHC was designated as a federally-qualified Community Health Center and expanded its services to provide medical, dental and behavioral health care to everyone. As a Community Health Center, RAHC provides comprehensive, high-quality, accessible and affordable healthcare that is coordinated, culturally competent and community directed for the insured, underinsured and uninsured.

[1] American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates, US Census Bureau, 2006-2010
[2] Virginia Atlas of Community Health, 2011
Milestones along the way
Began patient care
1993Received non-profit status from IRS
5 service hours per week
1994First Rick Mast Golf Tournament
5 service hours per week
1995Hired executive director
Received 3 year grant from VHCF to fund a nurse practitioner
Received special grant from UW to fund a pharmacist
Applied for UW member agency status
Started a quarterly women’s health clinic
9 service hours per week
1996Hired a nurse practitioner (8 hours per week)
Held first annual fundraising campaign
Added prescription services for Medicare
18 service hours per week
1997Hired patient care coordinator (RN)
NP grant expanded from 8 to 20 hours per week
Started board designated endowment
1998Hired administrative assistant
Hired part time (20 hours) nurse practitioner
Completed facility and services survey of other Free Clinics
Adopted new Bylaws
24 service hours per week
1999Received state funding for pharmacy expansion
Board resolution passed to establish building fund
38 service hours per week
2000Completed strategic plan
Received additional state funding for pharmacy
Received grant to establish dental services
38 service hours per week
2001Started dental clinic
Purchased property at 25 Northridge Lane
2002Completed renovation plans and began work on new facility
2003Moved into new clinic at 25 Northridge Lane in July
Began using a patient data management system
2004Completed a marketing strategy aimed at potential patients
Became a participant in the RxPartnership
Received pledges of $1,080,000 of the $1.1 Million capital campaign goal
2005Launched website for the organization
Completed strategic plan for the organization
2006Received $50,000 for dental
Received $61,000 grant from Carilion for capacity building
Completed a needs assessment for the Rockbridge area
2007Completed the four chair dental suite
Held the First Annual Bull & Oyster Fest
Completed a board assessment with the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance
2008Grand opening of the dental suite
2009Started pediatric dental program
Started Group Medical Visits for diabetic patients
Hired an additional part time registered nurse
Hired a development director
Hired a patient advocate coordinator
2010Received a collaborative VHCF grant with RACSB to provide mental health services
Instituted required patient administrative fees
2011Awarded an $80,000 planning grant
Opened on-site vision center
Began community garden
2012 Completed a year-long comprehensive community health needs assessment
Inaugural Gobble Wobble 5K to benefit the RAHC
Awarded a 3 year VHCF grant to expand dental program, established the Rockbridge Regional Dental Clinic
2013Changed name to Rockbridge Area Health Center
Established a consumer majority board of directors
Established an advisory committee
Received a New Access Point Grant to become a Federally Qualified Health Center
40 service hours per week
Hired a medical director
2014 Reopened as an FQHC
Began seeing insured patients
Began construction and renovation project
Implemented an Electronic Medical Record
Created a Compliance Program
Established an Outreach and Enrollment Department
2015Hired a 2nd dentist
Hired a Dental Director
Hired a Certified Diabetes Educator
2016Hired a Pediatrician
Hired a Clinical Director
2017Became a Veteran's Choice provider
Hired a 3rd dentist
Hired a 3rd Counselor
Hired a 2nd Pediatrician
Added Family Planning services
Added prenatal care in partnership with UVA
Opened a second dental site- Mountain View Family Dentistry
Received Patient-Centered Medical Home recognition
Received Health Center Quality Improvement grant through HRSA
Awarded $116,064 from VCHF to expand Behavioral Health Program
2018Started a renovation and expansion of the current building to more than double the square footage.
2019Office-Based Opioid Agonist Treatment (OBOT) program launched to provide quality treatment for individuals living with opioid Substance Use Disorder
23,000 Square foot state-of-the-art renovation and expansion completed
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