2012 Golden Circle Awardee: ICHS
“Health Care is a Right, Not a Privilege.”
“Health Care for People, Not for Profit.”
-ICHS Posters, 1973
In the late 1960s, there was little available in medical help for many low-income Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants. In the early days, many small clinics came and went. A few survived and grew into viable organizations.
By 1969, Sister Heide Parreno, a Catholic nun and recent immigrant from the Philippines, was volunteering at Pioneer Square Neighborhood Health Station. In serving the elderly Filipino residents at the clinic, she learned that there were many more elderly Filipinos who didn’t want to make the trek from their homes in the International District to Pioneer Square either because of the distance of travel or the discomfort of being served alongside the drug addicts and transients at the Pioneer Square facility. Sister Heide, as she was affectionately known, began doing blood pressure screenings in the International District, at a Filipino American social service agency called the International Drop-In
Center. Through her work there, she became convinced of the need for a clinic in the International District. According to the 1970 census, over 70% of the 1,700 residents there lived in poverty.
In 1973, urgency grew was constructions of I-5, the location of the Kingdome, and other forms of gentrification threatened to displace residences and businesses in the International District. In an effort to preserve this historic neighborhood, other community advocates such as Bruce Miyahara, Bob Santos, Frank Irigon, Donnie Chin, and others advocated bringing culturally responsive services particularly health care to the Chinatown community. With support from Dr. Eugene Ko, owner and manager of the Jefferson Park Clinic in Beacon Hill, the APIA community organizers established the Asian Community Health Clinic at the Jefferson Park Clinic. This new grassroots volunteer-run agency provided basic health care to mainly elderly Chinese and Filipino patients in Beacon Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods.
From these humble beginnings, the International Community Health Services (ICHS) has become Washington state’s largest Asian Pacific Islander American multilingual and multicultural community health center. ICHS currently offers a full range of affordable primary medical, dental, Chinese medicine, laboratory, Pharmacy, and preventive health education services. ICHS is conveniently located at Holly Park Medical & Dental Clinic, International District Medical & Dental Clinic, Seattle World School/NOVA High School, and Asian Counseling and Referral Service.
In 1975, the Asian Community Health Clinic evolved into International District (ID) Community Health Center when the agency moved to the International District. The ID Clinic was one of the first community-based health facilities in the United States to serve a diverse Asian and Pacific Islander population. In 1996, the Board of Directors and staff decided to expand the capacity of the ID Clinic’s services beyond the Chinatown neighborhood. The clinic once again transformed into International Community Health Services or ICHS, to reflect the addition of Holly Park Medical & Dental Clinic, and increasing diversity of community members being served. ICHS relocated to a larger facility in 2003 to accommodate Holly Park Clinic’s growing number of clients. Light rail construction forced an earlier move for the clinic and on January 10, 2005 ICHS once again opened its doors just blocks away from the old location to its new Holly Park Medical & Dental Clinic on South Othello Street.
On August 6, 2012 ICHS, launched the start of its 20,000-square-foot medical and dental building Shoreline health clinic scheduled to open in 2014. The $12 million project will be the first community health center in the city of Shoreline. It will continue to offer to Shoreline residents’ medical, dental, mental health, translation, financial screening and insurance enrollment services.
Recently, Angela Wan, an ICHS community advocate, earned first place in the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations’ “Our Stories” contest for her video production, “Bridge to Health.” ICHS gathered the top three places in the video category with former ICHS staff member Shu Feng, and ICHS community advocate, Fa’amaile Frost. ICHS continues to be committed to improving the health of medically underserved communities by providing affordable and in-language health care.