Family Healthcare: A small facility that packs a punch

BIG RAPIDS Adjacent to the Water Tower Apartments is a healthcare facility that encompasses much more than meets the eye.

Family Health Care has been in operation in Big Rapids since 2020, located at 730 Water Tower Road. Their one building provides medical, dental, and behavioral care.

The organization began in 1967 in Baldwin. Over its 46-year history it has expanded to six locations: White Cloud, McBain, Grant, Cadillac, Baldwin and Big Rapids.

The facilities next to all Family Health Care locations are unique in helping people get health care with limited or no insurance, by having an open door policy in terms of who can use their services.

“We are governed by the community. We are also here to serve, regardless of your health insurance status or ability to pay,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Julie Tatko. “As people come in, we can help them sign up for insurance, and we also have a scaled-down rate. We’re helping people access services conveniently, and the scaled-down rate can help if you only have coverage for one service but not everything.”

The degressive rate applies to all services. Medical services range from checkups, sick care and management of chronic conditions, with age ranges from pediatrics to geriatrics, according to Physician Assistant Heather Williams. The dental side includes checkups and restorative care such as fillings, crowns or dentures. Currently the dentist they have is part time and only comes once a week so they refer many to Baldwin or White Cloud.

The facility also provides behavioral health care to the community.

“In addition to medical care, we are providing behavioral health care, and that would be mild to moderate individual and group counseling services,” Tatko said. “We partner with community mental health, if there’s something more serious or that requires a higher level of care, we can do deliveries and referrals. But on the spot, we’re doing one-on-one counseling.”

They also do addiction treatment, helping people who are addicted to opioids in and around the area. This program sees patients weekly and usually involves an initial visit through a telehealth visit with the Family Health Care provider.


Outside of Big Rapids, Family Health Care has pharmacies at their locations in Baldwin, White Cloud and Grant. These pharmacies operate on the same degressive fee and provide education on how to take their products.

“A lot of older patients, especially as they’re starting on new medications, have all these medications that they may not know about, so our pharmacists will really sit down and help educate them on what it’s all about,” Williams said. “They can put together calendar sheets and pill boxes for some of our patients who might be struggling a bit. So, it takes all the guesswork out.”

Across all the counties they’re in, Tatko said they serve about 24,000 people total. Typically at the Big Rapids facility they see about 1,000 people a year, with another 100 using the behavioral health service. However, there are challenges one faces when trying to provide health care to as many people as possible.

“I think transportation is a huge struggle. Even with MOTA (Mecosta Osceola Transit Authority) you have to call ahead to arrange a ride.” Williams said. “For a while during the pandemic, many Medicaid plans would take people to appointments, but that stopped during COVID. This made it even more difficult for people to access care. That’s where telehealth comes in. But in this rural region, there are many areas where you don’t have access to the internet.”

Alongside this, there is always a need to fill positions for healthcare professionals.

“Another limitation we’ve seen is the ability to meet needs,” Tatko said. “Just being able to hire trained staff has always been a problem, but during COVID there was a change in where people worked and there was a lot of movement. We are involved in helping train new practitioners, the which is a great job to be a part of. Then, students rotate through our sites and we can help with their training. But identify dentists, doctors and even support staff who are qualified to enter and fill our posts work is a challenge.”

When Williams moved to Family Health Care, many patients who followed her were surprised by the facilities they provided according to Williams. She noted that there is a stigma that because Family Health Care is a federally qualified low-income clinic, the facilities would be bad.

“I think there’s a huge stigma, but we have case nurses, just like many other healthcare systems do to help connect with patients if they have a really complicated medication regimen and we have to make a lot of changes or they’ve been to another hospital.” like you can offer those services and we have those services,” Williams said. “I think it’s been an eye-opener for many of my patients who have moved here.”

The Big Rapids location has big plans for the future of the community, with a plan in place for expansion. The facility itself will have a basement added along with the expansion of the original facility. In addition to this, they also hope to expand their school services with two new school health centers located at Evart and Reed City schools and behavioral health services at Pine River and Cadillac schools.

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