The Student Health Organization of the University of Toronto (S.H.O.U.T):
In the late 1960s a group of students in the health faculties of the University of Toronto had a vision of a storefront community centre with a health focus. The idea for the centre was conceived by students belonging to the Student Health Organization of the University of Toronto (S.H.O.U.T), which was formed in 1967. Students were “Dissatisfied with traditional health science education which keeps students in separate courses separated, the students decided to try to integrate their training” (U of T Graduate, Spring 1971).
The vision was modeled along the lines of Community Health Centres that had been developing in the United States with the primary operational goal of using a personal and integrated approach to the physical, psychological and social problems of the area. The focus was to be on community health and educational projects; and the storefront location would be a meeting place, dispelling myths and fears about health care. Students and staff at the Center were to provide their services as part of an inter-disciplinary care model, through communication and co-operation within allied professions.
On February 10, 1969 S.H.O.U.T began a clinic at 314 Bathurst Street, providing a host of services including comprehensive medical care, a children’s recreational program, a social program for senior citizens, tutoring for school age children and legal aid. Medical advice was provided under the supervision of licensed physicians, who volunteered their time on a rotating basis three nights a week. Second and third year medical students rotated through the center on a regular schedule and patients were encouraged to see the same medical students for follow up visits. The center was eventually registered as a non-profit charitable organization and became eligible for direct Ontario Health Service Insurance Claims. (see archival articles on the S.H.O.U.T clinic)
- In October 1969 S.H.O.U.T relocated to 64 Augusta Avenue in proximity to the Alexandra Park Community, a newly completed Ontario Housing Project of about 4,000 people, and operated from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday.
- In April 1970 S.H.O.U.T added a dental clinic under a licensed volunteer dentist. The clinic was subsidized by the medical program and supported by donated equipment and free drugs from pharmaceutical companies, thus allowing it to charge a nominal fee of $ 2.00 for any dental procedure regardless of the number of visits required and to ensure that a comprehensive service was available to all regardless of ability to pay.
- In June 1970 the Atkinson Charitable Foundation provided a grant that allowed S.H.O.U.T to open during the day.
- In March 1971 the adjoining premises of 64 Augusta were linked to facilitate a larger and more functional community health center and an expanded dental clinic. Morning clinics were devoted to the treatment of children from Ryerson Public School and afternoon clinics to the adult population of Alexandra Park. At this point the students involved in the development of the center believed they had accomplished their first objective of integrating health science education with the delivery of community health care services. Funding at this time came from a National Department of Health and Welfare grant, OHSIP generated income and the University of Toronto’s Students’ Council.
- In 1973 a full time physician was appointed. In addition to the medical and dental services an inter-agency group, The Help Unit, was formed in Alexandra Park and housed at the Community Health Centre. The Help Unit was staffed with community volunteers and people from various other social agencies, government agencies and community groups on a rotational basis and served as an information post and front line contact to appropriate agencies for all types of problems. The Centre also included a free legal clinic, staffed by University of Toronto law students who worked with a local lawyer involved in legal aid activities.
- In February 1975 S.H.O.U.T was incorporated as a non-profit organization renamed Alexandra Park Community Health Centre.
Niagara Neighbourhood Health Centre (N.N.H.C.) & West Central Community Health Centre:
In 1973 another centre, the Niagara Neighbourhood Health Centre (N.N.H.C.) had been established in a basement on Niagara Street by a group of interested community members who wished to expand health care services to the under serviced, mixed residential and industrial areas south of Queen Street and the residential area between Bathurst, Shaw and Dundas Street. In 1975 funding was obtained from the Ministry of Health and a clinic was opened.
In 1977 the Ministry of Health decided that a community health center had to have a minimum of two physicians and 4,000 patients to receive funding. In response, a West Central Community Health Centre board of directors was formed with three representatives from each clinic to consider amalgamation of the Alexandra Park and the Niagara Neighbourhood Health Centres, which became effective February 2, 1978. The West Central Community Health Centres of Toronto was incorporated without share capital (i.e. non-profit) on February 2, 1982.
- In 1981 The School of Dentistry severed its relationship with Alexandra Park Health Centre as a result of centralization of teaching facilities and problems with insurance coverage. A full time dentist was hired in 1982.
- In 1984-85 The Niagara Neighbourhood Health Centre closed its basement location and moved to 674 Queen West.
- In the early 1990’s Alexandra Park and Niagara Neighbourhood Health Centres amalgamated to share a common administration.
- On February 17, 1997 the West Central Community Health Centres of Toronto changed its name to become the Central Toronto Community Health Centres.
- Also in 1997, the Alexandra Park and Niagara Neighbourhood Community Health Centres moved into a new facility at 168 Bathurst Street and became the Queen West Community Health Centre, with a total catchment area encompassing that of the original CHCs. With the location identified as the Queen West site.