Aaron E. Henry Community Health Services Center, Inc., is a Section 330(e) Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) located in the heart of the agricultural Mississippi Delta. Incorporated in the State of Mississippi on April 27, 1979, in honor of Dr. Aaron E. Henry, an African American pharmacist who served as a State Representative and civil rights activist from Clarksdale, MS, the organization was funded by DHHS and began service delivery in Clarksdale in August 1980. The organization celebrated 40 years of service in 2019.
After operating in Clarksdale for nearly 6 years, in response to an outcry from local residents, AEH opened a satellite center in Tunica, MS located thirty miles away, during 1986. Tunica, MS, then referred to as "Sugar Ditch" or "Little Ethiopia", had deplorable living conditions and AEH wanted to be a part of the community efforts that were being taken to enhance the economic and health of area residents. Therefore, the organization renovated a small storefront clinic and staffed it with two NHSC physicians. The response to the new health center was enormous.
During 1988, a new Board of Directors was elected and Aurelia Jones-Taylor was hired as the new CEO the following year (June 1989). The CEO then selected a management team and this team has worked together to develop multiple sites, services, and programs designed to alleviate health disparities and barriers to care.
In 1990, a new 3,400 sq. ft. facility in Clarksdale was renovated to accommodate the ever-growing patient load and users increased exponentially. During this time, the agency began to focus on recruiting additional professional and medical staff, as well as improving existing facilities. As the organization began to add on services and programs, it was quickly evident that space was inadequate at both sites.
A BPHC Capital Improvement Project grant was funded in 1991 and the new Tunica clinic facility was completed in 1995. During this period, Aaron E. Henry CHC established new points of service delivery within the service area to include a school-based health center in Tunica in 1992, a free-standing clinic in Friars Point, MS in 1995, and school-based clinics in Quitman County and Tallahatchie County, also in 1995. AEH also became the third member of the National Children's Health Fund’s network of mobile-based clinics, based out of New York, NY in 1991. AEH became one of only two agencies nationwide to receive a fully-equipped mobile medical unit from Hasbro Children’s Foundation.
In AEH's efforts to continue to answer the needs of the communities that they serve; Rural General Public Transportation was added in 1992 through the agency’s Delta Area Rural Transit System (DARTS) program. The transportation system began in 1990 with only two 15-passenger minivans to transport AEH patients to subspecialty care. The operation has grown to include over 35 multi-passenger vehicles transporting local residents primarily to job opportunities, as well as other human services destinations. The program is Federally funded through FTA Section 5311 and administered by the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Because of the ever-growing patient load and the need for additional staff, an administrative building was also purchased in 1995 to relieve the overcrowding conditions at the Clarksdale site, provide an alternative to leased space, and provide space for continued growth and development. The building has since been renovated to become a Regional Transportation and Maintenance Center through grant funding from USDA Rural Development, FTA, Community Transportation Association of America, and the State Department of Energy.
However, the growth of AEH didn’t stop there, in 1999, AEH received a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) expansion grant to open two additional clinics in Panola County – one in Batesville and the other in Como. As a result of this expansion, the Board of Directors increased its size to thirteen members. Although it took many years to accomplish, another HRSA Capital Improvement Project was funded and AEH completed the construction of a 12,000 square foot replacement for its flagship site in Clarksdale, MS, in May 2000.
AEH has seen great growth and success over the years and we are looking forward to continued success in the future.