819 Bloomington Road
Champaign, IL 61820
7:30am-7:30pm, M-Thur, 7:30am-5:00 pm F
(217) 356-1558
A program of the local nonprofit Promise Healthcare
Payment Method
Medicaid, Medicaid managed care plans, Medicare, insurance; Sliding Fee Scale
Wheelchair accessibility

Frances Nelson provides primary medical services, prenatal program, immunizations, health education, and social services to medically under-served and uninsured adults and children of Champaign County. Priority is given to pregnant women, infants, children, adults and children with chronic health conditions (diabetes, hypertension, asthma, heart disease, etc.). Patients must complete the intake process to establish care. A sliding-fee scale is offered to clients without insurance with verification of financial status. Spanish-speaking staff is available to assist patients.

Call for appointments to establish care. Priority given to pregnant women, infants, children and adults with chronic health conditions. Must bring proof of Insurance, Medicaid/KidCare/Medicare, and/or proof of income.

History of the Frances Nelson Health Center

by Erma Bridgewater and Doris Hoskins

In the 1940s, Frances Nelson sheltered impoverished and neglected African American children in Champaign County. She continued this charitable act until her death in 1961. Research findings in 1962 by two Master's Degree candidates in the University of Illinois Jane Addams Graduate School of Social Work (namely Arnetta Collins Rodgers, African-American and James Dudley, Caucasian) titled Prenatal Care Among Champaign-Urbana Illinois Negro Mothers, told of the adequate and inadequate care of some 76 expectant mothers. Further research in 1964 showed the mortality rate of the African-American births in Champaign-Urbana as greater than that of the white community and much higher than the national average.

In view of these findings and the hypothesis thereof, the message was LOUD and CLEAR that some action by the African-American community needed to be taken to remedy the situation, not only for the prenatal care of the mothers, but also for the care after birthing for both mother and child. Concerned citizens, both African-American and White, including a young African-American men's group named S.O.U.L. (Security, Opportunity, Unity, and Love), Vernon Barkstall, Director of the Urban League of Champaign County, Drs. Ruth Hyphus, and Elsie Fields of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Disttrict, Sue Ellen Jacobs from the University of Illinois Urban Planning, local physicians and nurses, all worked together on plans to establish a facility to provide health services for the indigent and needy in north Champaign. In addition to these groups, a University of Illinois African American student named Bill Smith advocated for better health services for African Americans during this time. After a fight at a local bar, Smith received poor health care services for his injuries at the hospital. Smith and other civil rights activists petitioned the city to provide better health care for its destitute citizens.

At the time the Urban Renewal Department of the City of Champaign was clearing the area surrounding Douglass Park to make room for the expansion thereof. On these grounds was a house at 908 North Firth Street, in good condition and awaiting removal to another site. It was leased to the City of Champaign Economic Opportunity Council (E.O.C) for $1.00 per year. This house became the first home of the "North End Health Center". The doors opened at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2. 1968, staffed by local volunteer doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and office personnel. Christine Washington brought the first patient to the facility. It remained at this location until 1969.

Due to the expansion of needed health services, the increase in the number of patients, and the need for more space, the Center moved to its present location, the former Frances Nelson Children's Home at 1306 North Carver Drive in north Champaign, and assumed the name Frances Nelson Health Care Center. Services were resumed on November 19, 1969. Community volunteers Ora and Mel Mitchell, Erma Bridgewater and Wilda Herndon, along with many others, served as receptionists, lab,technicians. carpenters and maintenance persons.

Ms. Elsie Easley was named its first director and served from 1968 to 1973, followed by Mr. Tom Brown, who served from 1973 to 1978. In 1978, Frances Friedman who had been among the first volunteer nurses and
later a board member became Director, and served until 1986.

Through the years, many directors have come and gone, and the Frances Nelson Health Center still stands today as a monument in the community and through these 31 years. has served many thousands of patients - both African-American and others - with a dedicated staff of medical professionals, office personnel and volunteers.

For more on the history of the Frances Nelson Health Center, see Through the Years, Fall/Winter 1999, available on eBlackCU at http://eblackcu.net/portal/items/show/55. Additional resources can be found at the Champaign County Historical Archives at the Urbana Free Library. Please consult this link to more information on Frances Nelson and Bill Smith: http://archivescatalog.urbanafreelibrary.org/polaris/search/title.aspx?ctx=1.1033.0.0.2&pos=4