In the 1980s, Carmen Velásquez, Alivio’s founder and immediate past executive director, was involved in issues surrounding access to health care. Ms. Velásquez found that few Spanish-speaking patients were being served at Mercy, which was located in close proximity to Pilsen. The health care of these families was severely neglected because they were uninsured and undocumented, making them afraid to access care where no health care providers spoke their language. Troubled by the fact that so many Mexicans living in Pilsen, Little Village, and Back of the Yards did not have access to health care, and that there were very few Spanish speaking providers serving the community, she approached Mercy's CEO at the time, Sister Sheila Lyne. Fortunately, Sister Sheila supported the creation of a community health center to address the issues of access to health care. The work of Alivio Medical Center (AMC) was then initiated.
As a result of a passionate vision, strong partnerships and the crucial need for bilingual-bicultural medical providers for the uninsured and undocumented, Alivio Medical Center opened its door in 1989 in the heart of the Pilsen community (Lower West Side). Alivio’s service area has since expanded to the Chicago communities of Archer Heights, Ashburn, Brighton Park, McKinley Park, Gage Park, New City, South Lawndale, Chicago Lawn, West Lawn and the neighboring suburbs of Cicero and Berwyn, Illinois. Today, Alivio Medical Center operates two health centers in Pilsen, one health center in Berwyn (including walk-in wellness center), a mobile unit and three school-based health centers in Pilsen and South Lawndale.
We serve families and individuals who historically have had limited access to healthcare for many reasons including language and cultural barriers, intimidation of traditional healthcare institutions, limited awareness of available resources and/or fear of seeking help due to immigration status. Consequently, health promotion, education, and prevention are integral parts of our comprehensive programs. Alivio’s bilingual, bicultural providers serve all patients regardless of ability to pay.
Alivio has a thirty-year track-record of service and advocacy in the Latino community. We have made great strides in helping our patients/clients and their families learn about and participate in programs that have the potential to improve the quality of their health and lifestyle.
Key to Alivio’s mission and philosophy, Alivio is a leading voice for the undocumented and the immigrant community. Alivio plays a key role with the organizations that advocate for universal health care, immigrants’ rights and a diverse bilingual workforce. These organizations include Campaign for Shriver Center, UnidosUS, Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, Pilsen Neighbors Community Council and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.