CIRCLE HEALTH SERVICES, INC., often called the Free Clinic, was established in June 1970 as the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland to provide free, nonpunitive medical care to young people with drug problems. One of the few free clinics from that period to survive, it expanded to meet changing community needs, remaining a respected medical and social-service agency. The clinic evolved from public health nurse Jeanne Sonville's Together Telephone Hotline for drug users, which began in February 1970. Hotline statistics demonstrated a need for an alternative medical facility for drug users. With grants from the GUND, Weatherhead, and CLEVELAND FOUNDATIONs and assistance from the ACADEMY OF MEDICINE, Sonville and twenty-five volunteers opened the Free Clinic at 2039 Cornell Road The clinic offered medical, dental, and psychiatric care as well as therapy for drug addiction.
Dependent upon grants, donations, and volunteers, the clinic struggled through its first three years. It began offering birth-control information and prenatal counseling (1971), helping runaway children (1972), and providing pediatric care (1973). Under the direction of David Roth from 1974-80, the clinic enjoyed both growth and stability. The Friends of the Free Clinic provided secure financial support, enabling the addition of a legal clinic (1975), a program to treat hypertension (1977), and the Safe Space Station temporary shelter for runaways (1977). The clinic moved into larger quarters at 12201 Euclid Avenue in 1974 and launched a major renovation in July 1980. In 1980 the clinic's $900,000 budget supported nineteen programs and served 50,000 people. The ensuing recession brought both a money shortage and an increased demand for services. In Dec. 1982 the Free Clinic received $100,000 from the TRW Foundation—enabling it to serve 3,000 additional patients a year.
In the 1990s the clinic continued to expand its services. It broadened its programs for adolescents, operating a specialized teen-health clinic. It also introduced several programs to address the AIDS crisis, including an anonymous testing program. In 1995 the clinic was also preparing to start a needle-exchange program to combat the spread of the HIV virus. At that time the Clinic's budget was about $1.5 million, about 70 percent of which was raised by private donations from the community. By 2006, the Clinic's budget grew to just over $3 million, and patient demand reached 20,000 annually. Private donations and a planned giving program, as well as grants from private and community foundations funds the organization.
In 2012, the Free Clinic became a federally qualified health center. This allowed the center to expand it's care to people with insurance, as well as those without. The Clinic changed its name to Circle Health Services, Inc. in 2016, connecting it with its University Circle location. A year later, Circle Heath and The Centers became affiliated organizations. As of 2022, Circle Health serves an average of 23,000 people annually.
Kasambira, Daniel Pambai. "The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland: A Case Study of Innovation in Health Care Organization," (Ph.D. diss., CWRU, 1975).