Meet the Blue Angels of Tucson

How El Rio Health, founded during the 1960’s social justice movement, adapted to serve residents through coronavirus

As the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s inspired many across the United States, history was being made in Tucson, Arizona. There, a small coalition of social justice activists began working with the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine to improve healthcare services in the city’s most underserved communities. Together, and with support from the city of Tucson and Lyndon Johnson’s Economic Opportunity Act, they were able to convert a 12-room juvenile detention center into Tucson’s first community health clinic: El Rio Santa Cruz Neighborhood Health Center.

More than fifty years later, El Rio Health continues to provide greater access to health care services for residents of Tucson. “The community literally brings its problems to our doorstep,” says El Rio CEO, Nancy Johnson. “And that gives us a unique opportunity to help strengthen and stabilize neighborhoods and the people in them.”

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