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Local low income health center celebrates 30 years of serving the community

Dr. Wendell Riggs first opened Riggs Community Health Center in 1988.

Posted: Sep. 20, 2018 6:46 PM
Updated: Sep. 21, 2018 9:08 AM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - A local medical resource for low income people is celebrating 30 years of service in our community. Dr. Wendell Riggs first opened Riggs Community Health Center in 1988.

The purpose of the center is to provide adequate health care to those in our community who may not be able to afford it.

“Every person needs good health care,” said Chief Operating Officer Don Phillips. “It's a human right."

The vision of the Dr. Riggs still lives on and continues to grow.

It originally opened with the goal of providing health care to pregnant mothers. Now they have expanded to offer dental care, behavioral health, and general adult medicine.

According to the Riggs website, it is estimated that they serve more than 13,000 people in Tippecanoe and surrounding counties. Riggs has even expanded its reach into Boone County with a small clinic.

Not everyone in our community was able to afford when Riggs Community Health Center first opened thirty years ago.

"There were about 23,000 people in Tippecanoe County that were uninsured," said former Riggs CEO Sally Waltington.

Today the employees of the center are celebrating the legacy that Dr. Wendell Riggs first started.
All because he saw the need for helping the medically underserved.

"Oh he saw it because he was taking care of babies whose mothers did not have proper prenatal care and that was a really difficult to do for the doctor,” said Watlington.

Phillips has been the Chief Operating Officer for the past seven years. He said they continue his legacy by making an effort to be a place people want to come to get help.

“Not just a place where people look at us like a last resort because we do offer top notch health care just like all the other health care and primary health care facilities here in town,” he said.

It's estimated community health centers like Riggs saves the national health care system as much as $17.6 billion each year.

What started as a 600 square foot prenatal clinic has grown to three operating facilities and expanded health care services to include dental care, behavioral health, and general adult medicine.

"Why not have a wide variety of those resources integrated into one place where they can come and from the moment they walk in the doors they know they are going to get the high quality health care that they deserve," said Phillips.

Something that will continue in honor of the center's namesake.

"That was Wendell Riggs' goal: high quality health care," said Watlington.

"I think if he was alive today, he would be proud,” said Philips. “This is just following in his footsteps, what he started. Very small, grassroots but he was very passionate and very dedicated and we try to imitate that example and to perpetuate what he started.” he said.

Workers at Riggs are looking forward to 30 more years of serving this community.

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