In the early 1970’s a handful of friends & neighbors living in the hills of Southern Humboldt started talking to each other about the need for health care that would work for them.
In this founding group were midwives & young parents seeking support for the growing home birth movement. There were people interested in exploring alternative therapies & people who had received bad or disrespectful treatment at the hands of the doctors they had visited in the cities. Most of these founders were poor; many were on welfare & had experienced discrimination based on their poverty, their apparent counter cultural appearance, or their ethnic or racial status.
The common vision this group had is still expressed in the Mission Statement of Redwoods Rural Health Center--that there be a place where a person could go to get heathcare that was respectful, that was client led, that recognized the validity of a variety of healing modalities, that tried to treat the whole person.
Thanks to some very hard work on the part of these founders, who lobbied hard in Sacramento and worked to understand grants and healthcare funding, Redwoods Rural came into official being as a rural health center in early 1976.
The clinic’s first locale was a sort of hole in the wall storefront on Briceland Road. By 1977 Redwoods Rural rented the more spacious mainstreet storefront next to the laundromat. At first there wasn’t even a doc on staff, but in time Irv Tessler was hired. In the early days everyone on staff, from the janitor up to the medical director, received the same hourly pay. After an interlude in which building out in Ruby Valley was considered and dismissed, the land on Westcoast Road in Redway was bought & the medical clinic built, with the dental building following sometime in the late 1980’s. In the mid 1990s a satellite clinic opened in Alderpoint.
Throughout these decades, Redwoods Rural has drawn to it some remarkable talents and very dedicated hearts. From the beginning, the health center was committed to a vision of healthcare that included ancient and new ways of healing. During these decades RRHC has seen this cutting edge vision become the accepted standard even in medically conservative circles as more and more insurance companies and doctor’s groups recognize complementary therapies as effective and cost effective means of healing. With the completion of the second building, Dental Services were added to the mix of care; many adults and children who would otherwise not have been able to have even basic dental care have smiles that attest to the skill and care of the RRHC dental staff.
Providing healthcare to a small, diverse, rural community Redwoods Rural has faced many challenges. With a commitment to seeing that the entire community is cared for, RRHC has often faced cashflow difficulties due to the rising amount of uncompensated care and the difference between what the health center costs are versus what the health center is paid. There have been crises of staffing and challenges to our mission. In times of challenges the health center is always dependent upon the support and passion of this grassroots community to carry it through and keep it supplying the sort of responsive, community centered, respectful healthcare for which it was founded.
Redwoods Rural Health Center is a unique community clinic in that the board of directors is elected by a membership to which it must be responsive. Within the state of California most health centers function with appointed boards. Redwoods Rural has believed that its elected board gives the center a strength and immediate responsiveness to community needs. Anyone may become a member of RRHC. All are invited to join, to ensure that the caring, audacious vision that started this health center continues for many decades to come.