NORMAN — Beginning May 1, people living in Norman and the surrounding area will have a stronger health care safety net thanks to a new affiliation of Health for Friends, Norman’s nonprofit community health center since 1985, and Variety Care, an Oklahoma City-based nonprofit Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).
Variety Care and Health for Friends have both earned a reputation for shoring up gaps in the health care safety net by efficiently providing a wide range of quality care and health education to diverse populations.
During a meeting, Brian Karnes, Health for Friends CEO, and Lou Carmichael, Variety Care CEO, immediately saw an opportunity for two thriving nonprofits to merge their strengths to maximize efficiencies, increase services to those in greatest need and increase their social impact far beyond the grant application.
“Now Norman will begin to see more services, more sites, more opportunities,” said Carmichael.
New services that will be provided include prenatal care, family planning, eye care and mental health care. Capacity for existing services will be greatly expanded offering family medicine, pediatric medicine, and dental care.
“We are excited that our long sought after goal of having a strong FQHC site in Norman is going to be realized by the affiliation with Variety Care,” said Karnes. “Variety Care will provide the common vision and identity while we will maintain our unique culture reflecting the Norman community.”
Over the coming months, Health for Friends will transition to the Variety Care name and logo. It will continue to provide primary health care services at the same locations with the same staff. In addition, the Variety Care Foundation will form a Norman chapter to provide advocacy, fundraising and community awareness in support of the Norman operations and programs.
“We have had great feedback from the community,” said Karnes.
Norman Regional Health System and the United Way of Norman, two of Health for Friends long-standing and largest funders, fully support this partnership as they move forward with the affiliation.
“United Way of Norman and Health for Friends have a long history of working together to meet local health needs,” said Kristin Collins, United Way of Norman president. “We believe the new partnership with Variety Care will enhance current services while making new, much-needed services available to our community. We believe the affiliation with Variety Care to be a very positive one for Norman.”
Matt Clouse, Health for Friends board president, adds that the merger also will provide jobs to the area.
“Most importantly, those new jobs will turn into increased access to comprehensive health care for those who need it the most,” Clouse said.