History

This is Us: Our Story

Health Choice Network (HCN) is one of the first successful health-center controlled networks; a nation-wide collaboration among health centers and partners. Through its years of growth, HCN has led the shift in cutting-edge technology that Health Center-Controlled Networks need to remain at the forefront of today’s technology-driven environment. This is our story.

In 1994, a group of community health centers discovered that by linking together and creating a network, they could receive the advantages and expertise of a large health system while remaining independent. This unique and powerful alliance, now held up as a national model for others to follow, is called Health Choice Network (HCN).

 

The founding members of the Network recognized the common bonds all community health centers share. They invested in each other and learned from each other. And by unifying certain aspects of community health centers - such as information technology and financial services - each Network member receives the highest level of professionalism and expertise while remaining an independently operated and controlled community health center. Betsey K. Cooke, formerly the director of the Primary Health Care Consortium, was named the Network’s CEO.

 

The founding centers from Miami-Dade County – Jessie Trice Community Health System (fka Economic Opportunity Family Health Center), Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (fka Community Health of South Dade), Helen B. Bentley Family Health Center and Camillus Health Concern – were soon joined by Ft. Myers-based Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida. The new member from across the Everglades contributed their automated business systems as well as their technology talents.

The area of managed care remained a focus for all Network members. Although the Network was not yet large enough to become a full-fledged HMO, a management services organization called Atlantic Care was formed in 1997 to allow the Network to take risks and share rewards.

 

Taking advantage of members’ partnerships with faith-based institutions, the Network created Healthy Body, Healthy Soul in 1998 to further develop community outreach, health education and disease prevention programs. In 1999, one of the Network’s founding leaders, Jessie Trice, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Before her death, she enlisted the help of U.S. Congresswoman Carrie Meek and U.S. Senator Connie Mack to help establish a program that would go beyond primary and secondary care into clinical trials, screening and research. The Jessie Trice Health Promotion Program was born.

 

By the dawn of the new century, Health Choice Network was receiving national recognition for its innovations and successes. Across the country in New Mexico, a group of community health centers wanted to take advantage of HCN’s expertise. Closer to home, the Broward Community and Family Health Center joined the Network. By 2002, the Network welcomed Citrus Health Network, a Miami-Dade mental health network, as well as, Miami Beach Community Health Center. Following the model of New Mexico, a group of centers from Utah also joined HCN.

 

During these years, Health Choice Network was also gaining corporate partners and winning major grants. A new patron category of membership was created, and it included hospitals, research centers, managed care companies and health care companies. In 2003, HCN received a $4 million federal grant to implement electronic health records in all its Florida centers.

Throughout its first decade of growth and success, the Network has remained bound to its goals of improving access to quality health care for all and reducing disparities in minority and underserved communities. The reach of Health Choice Network has spanned languages, cultures, races and geography to link a vast array of health care communities into one powerful force.

HCN started in 1994 when its five founding members joined together and quickly realized the advantages of a collaborative network. Twenty-five years later, HCN has grown to 30 Member Centers in 9 states across the country. Throughout its success, the Network has remained bound to its goals of improving access to quality health care for all and reducing disparities in minority and underserved communities. Watch the history of Health Choice Network unfold in this 25th Anniversary Video.

Betsey K. Cooke

HCN Founding CEO

Born in Thomasville, Georgia in 1950, Betsey Komarek Cooke was raised on Birdsong, a 500-acre nature preserve established by her parents Edwin and Elizabeth Komarek in the Florida panhandle close to the Georgia border. Her father was an ecologist and her mother a botanist. As a young child, Betsey was able to identify more than 200 different native bird songs.  Ms. Cooke received her bachelor's and master’s degree in social work from Florida State University in Tallahassee and worked for eight years as the director of the Tri-County Medical Center in North Florida before coming to Miami. In 1991, she married Charlie Cooke, a professional musician she had met while on a cruise.

 

Ms. Cooke was the Director of Miami-Dade’s Primary Health Care Consortium in 1991 when a group of community health centers banded together and formed Health Choice Network, naming Cooke their founding President. She remained in that position for 11 years until health problems forced her to step down. In that period, she became a nationally-recognized community health advocate and a steadfast champion of affordable quality health care for underserved communities in Miami-Dade and throughout Florida. Through her tireless efforts on behalf of the uninsured, she was well-known to politicians, government health officials and business leaders from Miami to Tallahassee to Washington, D.C.  Under her visionary leadership, Health Choice Network had grown to include 12 community health centers in Florida and networks in both New Mexico and Utah. Together, they served more than 200,000 needy patients annually at the time she stepped down.

 

It was Cooke’s vision to bring community health centers together and share the cost of common services to better serve their patients. By providing the highest level of financial services, information technology, managed care and clinical services from a centralized location, the member centers could save money while improving their level of services.  Cooke received virtually every community health accolade, including the Aaron Brown Memorial Public Service Award from the National Association of Community Health Centers. In October 2005 she received the Connie and Priscilla Mack Cancer Advocacy Award. Betsey Cooke passed away from cancer on December 19, 2005.

OUR FOUNDING MEMBERS

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