Physical Location and Hours:
Challis Area Health Center, Inc.
611 Clinic Road
Challis, Idaho 83226
Days: Monday through Friday
Hours: 8:30AM to 5:30PM
The mission of CAHC is to better and protect the public health, operate facilities and provide quality primary care to the regional community.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHALLIS AREA HEALTH CENTER
According to the National Rural Health Association, providing medical services in rural areas is a major problem across the country, not just in Idaho. The obstacles faced by health care providers and patients in rural areas are very different from those in urban areas. Economic factors, cultural and social differences, educational shortcomings, lack of recognition by legislators and the sheer isolation of living in remote areas all conspire to create health care differences and impede rural Americans in their struggle to lead normal, healthy lives.
The Challis area brings an entirely new meaning to the term ‘rural’ America. Challis is located in Custer County, which is in the ‘heart’ of Idaho. The county is in a rural, mountainous area. The total area of the county is 4,938 square miles with 99.8% being land and 0.2% being water. The landscape consists of arid desert, flat green valleys and rugged rocky peaks; much of it is covered by the Salmon-Challis National Forest.
The County Seat of Challis only has three roads in or out. It is nestled in the heart of the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states, the Frank Church Wilderness. Custer County has 4,176 residents with 41.8% living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).
Custer County contains the town of Challis (1,083), Clayton (7), Mackay (494), May (186) and Ellis (88). The Challis Area Health Center is the primary medical facility for the County.
Challis was founded in 1878 and named for A.P. Challis, who was a surveyor when the town site was laid out. The purpose of the town was to provide support for the ranching, farming and mining communities in the area. Although a busy community for many years, Challis did not have local medical services until a hospital was built in Challis in the late 1940’s. Over the next 30+ years, medical care was sporadic, depending on whether or not the hospital had medical providers or could afford to stay open. That changed in the early 1970’s.
Challis area old-timers tell the story of a well-to-do gentleman who was fishing in the Frank Church Wilderness area when he was bitten by a rattlesnake. He had to go to Salmon for treatment. As the story goes, this gentleman was so appalled that Challis did not have a health care provider that he contacted the Marmot foundation about funding for a Clinic in Challis. That story may or may not be true, but the fact is that in 1975 the Marmot Foundation gave the North Custer Hospital District, headed by Chairman Buck Jensen, $5,000 to build a Clinic. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Richard Maxwell moved to Challis to practice medicine for the North Custer Hospital District.
Originally designed as a 4500 square-foot building with multiple levels and an attached ambulance garage, the Challis Area Health Center plans were changed to meet budget guidelines. The budget for the original Clinic was $150,000. In July of 1975, Mr. and Mrs. Willis DuPont of the Marmot Foundation approved the new plans.
“The new clinic will be utilitarian in concept and beautiful in design with future growth needs built in,” said Harold Gray, attorney for the Marmot Foundation.
The new North Custer Clinic held its Open House on April 3, 1976.
Since then, the Clinic has changed names, changed staff and changed providers. Dr. Richard Maxwell and Tom Saunders, Medex (predecessor of today’s Physician Assistants) were the first healthcare providers for the Clinic. Over the years, area residents’ medical needs have been met by Dr. Robert Fuller, Dr. Ken Harris, Physician Assistant’s David Martin, Ken Hyatt and Jim VanArk, Nurse Practitioner’s Nan Cayler, Helen Winegarner and Janet Merrell.
The Clinic boasts new equipment, new nursing and support staff and new healthcare providers joining long-time Medical Director Dr. Richard Paris are Nurse Practitioner Deana Andrews and Physician Assistants Chad Banks and Danny Fife. Like their predecessors, the new healthcare providers and staff are dedicated to helping Challis area residents enjoy healthier and happier lives.
They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
**Update** It has been confirmed, the "well-to-do gentleman," was actually a child from a "well-to-do" family, and the child was not bitten by a rattlesnake but a wild rabbit. ~gg