Fresh from its debut at our 50th Anniversary Gala, we’re excited to share the latest video from our 50 Years, 50 Stories series. It blends archival footage with stories told by the people who shaped Aunt Martha’s. We hear from Gary Leofanti and Raul Garza. But we also hear from a dozen of our partners, board members, employees and volunteers. We look from their perspectives at the people who are the soul of Aunt Martha’s. What’s clear – from every perspective – is that Aunt Martha’s really does have a soul. And an infinite future.

The Soul of Leader

I’ve been watching Aunt Martha’s for decades, and I’ve watched them grow. I’ve watched them change lives. I’ve watched them develop leaders. I’ve watched them become a very powerful force.

– Shawn Jeffers, Executive Director at Little City and Aunt Martha’s Partner

Leading for the Future

The future of Aunt Martha’s is hopefully bright and one that’s going to continue to grow and continue to take on more and more responsibility to the community.

John Dvorak, President at Wintrust Commercial Banking and Aunt Martha’s Partner

In 2007, with grant funding provided by the Illinois Department of Human Services – Division of Mental Health, Aunt Martha’s launched the first private secure network in Illinois to provide telepsychiatry services. The technology system we created was the first of its kind in the state. The goal was two-fold:

Create access to care

  • Illinois, like many states with rural areas, has a shortage of child psychiatrists. Our telepsychiatry program child psychiatrists available to those communities. It also became a model for future expansion.

Lower the cost of care

  • In the short-term, telepsychiatry would lower the cost of care for families by eliminating travel, child care expenses and time away from home or work.

Technology Challenges and Medicaid Billing Barriers

Our first telepsychiatry network consisted of six Community Mental Health Centers in central and southern Illinois. The centers were able to refer children and adolescents, ages 0-17 with behavioral and emotional problems, who worked with Aunt Martha’s psychiatrists by video-conferencing for evaluations and medication management. Despite the technological breakthrough, there were still barriers to making it all work.

  • At the time, access to a high-speed internet connection capable of supporting a high-quality, clinical interaction was spotty at best, particularly in the areas targeted by the telepsych program. This required special telecom lines to be installed at each partner site.
  • By the way, Aunt Martha’s could not bill Medicaid for the visits provided over its telepsych network. Incredibly, it would be nearly a decade before telepsychiatry services could be billed just like an office visit!

The video below shows how much our early telepsychiatry services meant to one family in central Illinois.

Learn more about the telehealth services Aunt Martha’s offers today!

There are, today, incentives within the healthcare environment to encourage greater collaboration between hospitals and community health centers (a.k.a. FQHCs). Becker’s wouldn’t write about it if it wasn’t cutting-edge, right?

Even before those incentives were encoded in our national health policy, Aunt Martha’s understood the need and the opportunity that existed in the unnecessary overuse of local emergency departments (20082021).

Celebrating our Hospital Partners

In 2021, our hospital-based clinics provided nearly 47,000 visits to more than 21,500 patients.

Advocate South Suburban Hospital

Our first hospital-based clinic opened in 2007 at Advocate South Suburban Hospital (Hazel Crest), and quickly outgrew its original space. Additional partnerships would follow, expanding Aunt Martha’s footprint and the impact of our integrated model of care to new communities and new regions. The picture below was taken in March 2007 at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new health center.

Left to right: 38th District Representative Al Riley, Ron Shopshire of Great Lakes Bank, 30th District Representative William Davis, Advocate South Suburban Hospital President Dr. Ann Errichetti, Aunt Martha’s Healthcare Network Medical Director of Clinic Operations Dr. Jennifer Byrd, Aunt Martha’s Healthcare Network’s Director of Sub-Specialty Services Dr. Alice Sartore, Hazel Crest Mayor Robert Donaldson, Village of Hazel Crest Trustee Dr. Jane Brown, Aunt Martha’s Healthcare Network’s Medical Director Dr. Lee Washington, Aunt Martha’s Healthcare Network General Manager Raul Garza.

Humboldt Park Health

Humboldt Park Health’s President and CEO Jose Sanchez  has said that Aunt Martha’s commitment to diversity and inclusion played a role when his team sought a new partner to fill the gap left when another local FQHC closed its clinic on the hospital’s campus.

“It was clear when we sat down with Aunt Martha’s executive team that this would be a different kind of partnership,” said Sanchez. “We were impressed by their clear, intentional approach to building diverse teams that represent the people they serve and respond patient needs in ways that are sensitive to the culture of the community.”

Left to Right: Audrey Pennington, Aunt Martha’s COO; Jose Sanchez, President and CEO, Humboldt Park Health; HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra; Congresswoman Lauren Underwood; Raul Garza, Aunt Martha’s President and CEO; Dr. Charles Barron, Aunt Martha’s CMO.

SwedishAmerican Hospital

“SwedishAmerican is extremely excited to partner with Aunt Martha’s and deliver high quality healthcare services to members of our community who perhaps needs it the most,” says SwedishAmerican President & CEO Dr. Michael Born.

“Too many of our residents, particularly those who are underserved and uninsured, now can gain access to better designed medical care. They will be set-up with a provider, having access to a medical home, rather than relying upon the emergency department for primary care.”

Northwestern Medicine Woodstock Hospital

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood visited our health center in Woodstock on June 6, 2022. She is backing Aunt Martha’s proposal to design a value-based approach to meeting the physical and mental health needs of teens and young adults in the 14th Congressional District.

AMITA Saint Joseph Medical Center

“This partnership speaks to the very heart of our mission as Presence Health to provide compassionate, holistic care with a spirit of healing and hope to so many in need in our Joliet community.” — Beth Hughes, President and CEO of Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

OSF Sacred Heart Medical Center

OSF Saint Francis Medical Center

supportive caregiver wearing mask touches the shoulder of a person with special needs

One of the reasons Aunt Martha’s has always been a unique resource is our willingness to understand and respond to the needs of highly specialized, high-risk populations. DCFS youth. Youth involved with the courts and juvenile justice system. Children and families in crisis.

In each case, Aunt Martha’s stepped in to design (often from the ground up) innovative solutions that relied on the expertise of deeply committed partners.

Special Needs Clinic at Little City (Palatine)

A Medical & Dental Home for Patients with Special Needs

Caring for special needs patients takes compassion and understanding. What works in traditional medical and dental offices may not work in a setting that specializes in caring for patients with special needs.

We Care about the Details

Aunt Martha’s cares about the details. The little things that make a patient’s day a bit brighter, a caregiver’s day a bit easier. That’s why Little City asked Aunt Martha’s to bring our integrated model of care to its 56-acre campus in Palatine. Every detail — from the personalities of the staff, to the physical design of the office, to the role of the patient’s family and caregivers — has been carefully considered. Today, our Little City Health Center is Chicagoland’s only medical and dental home specially designed to meet the complex needs of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (DD).

Priority Access to Care

Aunt Martha’s clinic at Little City gives priority status to our patients living in the agency’s on-site residential settings. We also serve patients in the care of other organizations like Little City. The health center has significantly reduced Emergency Department visits by the developmentally disabled DCFS youth on the Little City campus.

About our Partner

Little City was founded in 1959 by a group of parents who wanted something better for their children who “experts” often said should be institutionalized. More than 60 years later, Little City remains a vital, vibrant community that creates hope, change lives and challenge the limits placed on individuals with disabilities.

Our nonprofit includes a 56-acre campus in Palatine with a choice of housing, programming and educational options as well as a foster care placement office in Chicago. We recently added the Duffey Family Children’s Village of state-of-the-art group homes for children and doubled our square footage and capacity of its ChildBridge Center for Education.

Partnership will offer one-stop access to primary care, mental health and behavioral health services.

CHICAGO, IL:  Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness, one of Illinois’ largest Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), and Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI), one of the largest statewide providers of social services, are collaborating to increase community access to primary care and behavioral health services in Chicago’s Portage Park and Belmont-Cragin neighborhoods.

Logo included in press release announcing collabroation with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois

The partnership will bring Aunt Martha’s services to LSSI’s Portage Cragin Counseling Center, located at 4840 W. Byron Street, Chicago.

Teams of employees from both agencies will work hand-in-hand with patients and their caregivers to develop care plans, coordinate visits and monitor progress toward personal treatment goals.

“This partnership is about bringing value to the community. That’s central to everything we do and in LSSI we found a partner that shares that commitment,” said Raul Garza, Aunt Martha’s President and CEO.

From the patient’s perspective, according to Garza, Aunt Martha’s on-site primary care, nursing and psychiatric services will be seamlessly integrated with the outpatient counseling and therapy services already being provided at LSSI’s Portage Cragin center. The integrated model is the underpinning of Aunt Martha’s value-based approach to care and has been demonstrated to result in higher levels of screening, better adherence to treatment, fewer ER visits and fewer hospital admissions – all factors that contribute to better outcomes and lower costs.

“Health and human service providers have a responsibility to improve the health and well-being of their community,” said Mark A. Stutrud, President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. “This integrated approach provides Whole Person, Whole Family care.”

Aunt Martha’s and LSSI are planning an opening event for the summer of 2021.

About Aunt Martha’s

Aunt Martha’s serves nearly 120,000 children and adults each year with more than 35 sites, including 23 community health centers spread across nine counties. The agency’s integrated health home model offers value-based, coordinated services, delivering whole-person wellness through the integration of primary and behavioral health care and linkages to additional support services that address social determinants of health. Aunt Martha’s has been continuously accredited by The Joint Commission since 1997.

About Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI)

Serving Illinois since 1867, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois ( is a nonprofit social service organization of the three Illinois synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). LSSI is one of the largest statewide social service providers. The organization provides critical programs for Illinois residents including foster care, mental health services, alcohol and drug treatment, affordable senior housing, residential programs for people with developmental disabilities, and services that help families who have been impacted by incarceration. LSSI is accredited by the Council on Accreditation.


Media Contacts


Barb Kraeger Hailey

Aunt Martha’s

Kenny Martín-Ocasio

Last Wednesday evening, Aunt Martha’s hosted many of the agency’s closest friends and strongest supporters at our 49th Anniversary Fundraiser event. We welcomed friends from: Iowa and Indiana; from communities across central and northern Illinois like Champaign, Bourbonnais, Joliet and Berwyn; from Peoria to Rockford, from Frankfort to Wilmette; and from all around Chicago – from the far South Side to Hyde Park, the South Loop and Downtown, to Logan Square, Humboldt Park, to the West Side and to the North Side.

For some the event was an introduction to Aunt Martha’s. For others, it was a reminder of what sets us apart. From my perspective, it was important that each of our guests, and you, know that the agency you turn to, partner with and support is committed to being the very best at what we do.

In fact, we learned this month that Aunt Martha’s has been recognized for the 5th straight year as a National Quality Leader. We’re proud of that work, and we’re proud of the people and organizations we work alongside. We’ve worked hard and been fortunate to find partners who share our vision. And we have worked hard to find partners who share our commitment to value.

Value. This is how we judge ourselves. This is what our integrated model is designed to create, by:

Enabling care teams to work together to achieve top quartile quality outcomes; and,

Driving down the cost of care – so much, in fact, that in calendar year 2020 Aunt Martha’s cost per patient was close to 50% lower than the national average (for health centers).

Ultimately, the event was it was an opportunity to share the story of our employees – their hard work, heart and heroism. But my words were not the only ones our guests heard. We also shared a new video with them, which I am proud to share with you today.

Please take a few minutes to watch. It is both a tribute and a renewed call to action. It reminds us how far we’ve come in 49 years, and it offers a glimpse ahead – to the next leg of our journey, to the hard work will do together as we write the next chapter of Aunt Martha’s story. And of our own.

Olympia Fields, IL:  Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness announced today that the UIC John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic has joined the organization’s continued effort to operate the state’s first and only children’s quarantine center for Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) youth in care affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UIC John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic will serve as co-counsel in a federal lawsuit filed by Aunt Martha’s on May 12 asserting that the Village of Midlothian has engaged in discriminatory actions in violation of the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

Emergency order prevents shuttering of quarantine center for DCFS kids

On May 27, the US District Court granted the organization’s request for an Emergency Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) prohibiting the Village from shutting down the Children’s Quarantine Center (CQC). Earlier this week it was extended for 60 days.

“Aunt Martha’s has always stood up for the most vulnerable members of the communities we serve, especially DCFS youth in care, most of whom are African American and Latino,” said Raul Garza, the agency’s President and CEO. “We believe there are important civil rights issues involved in this case, and we’re proud to have the Clinic’s team on our side in this effort.”

The Legal Team

As co-counsel, the Fair Housing Legal Clinic will offer its extensive fair housing related background and expertise in eliminating discriminatory practices and will help represent Aunt Martha’s in all aspects of this litigation.

Ricardo Meza of Meza Law will continue to serve as lead counsel. The Fair Housing Legal Clinic joins Roger Derstine of Roger B. Derstine, Chartered, Homero Tristan of Tristan & Cervantes, and Sohil Shah of Posinelli, PC as co-counsel.

About Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness, Inc.

Aunt Martha’s serves over 105,000 children and adults each year. It has over 35 sites, including 23 community health centers spread across nine counties. The agency’s integrated health home model offers value-based, coordinated services that deliver whole person wellness through the integration of primary and behavioral health care, as well as links support services that address social determinants of health. Aunt Martha’s has been accredited by the Joint Commission since 1997.

About the UIC John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Support Center and Clinic

The primary goals of UIC John Marshall’s Fair Housing Legal Support Center & Clinic are:

  • Educate the public about fair housing law, and
  • Provide legal assistance to those private or public organizations that seek to eliminate discriminatory housing practices.

The clinic opened in 1993. Since then it has helped thousands Chicago area clients who were denied housing because of discrimination. Funding for the Clinic is provided in part by a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.


Media Contact

Rick Meza
Meza Law
(708) 321-4693

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