A Brief History of ICHS

Today, ICHS provides care to thousands of patients each year in seven locations throughout the region, but its journey started in very humble circumstances over four decades ago. ICHS’ history is a story of the love, caring, commitment, and compassion that residents have for their community and for each other.

In the early 1970s, low-income Asian immigrants in Seattle’s International District had few options when they needed a doctor who spoke their language. The Pioneer Square Neighborhood Health Station was the only community clinic in the area but it was too far for many elderly Chinese and Filipinos to reach by foot.

With the construction of Interstate 5 in the 1960s, and the Kingdome stadium threatening to uproot homes and businesses in the area in the 1970s, the International District seemed like an unlikely place to launch a medical practice. But in 1973, a group of dedicated community advocates, including Sister Heide Parreño, Bruce Miyahara, Bob Santos and many others, brought culturally-appropriate medical services close to the neighborhood.

Dr. Eugene Ko, who owned the Jefferson Park Clinic in Beacon Hill, donated space for the advocates to establish the Asian Community Health Clinic. It would become the site for in-language health care for mainly elderly Chinese and Filipino patients from Beacon Hill and surrounding neighborhoods. Volunteer doctors, interpreters and mental health staff operated the Asian Community Health Clinic from the Jefferson Park Clinic on Tuesday nights and eventually on Saturday mornings.

In 1975, the Asian Community Health Clinic moved to the International District – and the International District (ID) Community Health Center was born. The ID Clinic, as many still call it, was the first of its kind in the nation to serve a diverse Asian population at one location.

In 1996, the ID Clinic expanded to South Seattle. The clinic took on a new name – International Community Health Services (ICHS) – to reflect a second location, the Holly Park Medical & Dental Clinic, and the increasing diversity of patients.

The Holly Park site quickly drew more patients. By 2003, ICHS realized the need for a larger facility. The construction of light rail forced an early move for the clinic. In early 2005, ICHS opened the doors to its new Holly Park clinic on South Othello Street, blocks from the old location.

Since then, the number of patients has grown, especially during the Great Recession. The Puget Sound region’s diversity has soared. ICHS reflects that. Each year, ICHS offers quality and affordable services – including medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, outreach and healthy living assistance – in more than 50 languages and dialects.

In 2012, ICHS received national recognition as a “patient-centered medical home” for its work in providing team-led, coordinated health care. It is a model designed to provide quality but keep costs down. With the Affordable Care Act, more people will become insured patients in 2014. ICHS is prepared to help meet this demand by offering care to patients at clinics in Seattle and the Puget Sound region.

In 2014, ICHS experienced unprecedented growth as it opened the Bellevue Medical and Dental Clinic in the populous Crossroads neighborhood, and the Shoreline Medical and Dental along the busy Aurora Avenue corridor.  The opening of Bellevue and Shoreline medical and dental clinics culminated a years-long planning that started with a 2006 Community Needs Assessment and a series of feasibility studies to effectively serve the growing populations of Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders in the region.

While much has changed in the more than four decades since ICHS opened its doors, its mission remains the same: To provide culturally- and linguistically-appropriate health services to anyone in need, including Asian Pacific Islanders, the unemployed, immigrants and refugees. Access to health care always makes for vibrant communities and strong families.