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Healthcare

In 1950 the Board of Palm Beach County Commissioners hired Dr. Clarence L. “Carl” Brumback, then with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, to start a county health department. Brumback, who remained county health director until 1986, later recalled:

Well, the health department had $92,000—$50,000 from the county, $42,000 from the state. We had a half of a second floor in an old building on 5th Street and what was known as Railroad Avenue in those days, and we had four rooms in labor camps in the western part of the county. That was all we had to work with. I was able to employ twenty people, including myself, to cover the whole county.

Dr. Brumback’s assessment of the county turned up a list of 56 issues, including sewage treatment, mental health services, and healthcare for children, migrant workers, and African Americans. Under Brumback’s direction, the Palm Beach County Health Department grew into one of the largest and most effective in Florida.

Brumback worked with U.S. Congressman Paul Grant Rogers (1921-2008), known as “Mr. Health,” to help migrant workers, not just locally by building a health center in Pahokee, but nationwide. In 2006 Brumback related this example of how strong local support and creative networking addressed public health issues:

[A] lot of the migrant farm workers could not get to clinics, even to the clinics that we provided; they had no transportation. So the idea came up early on—we got a thirteen-foot travel trailer and converted it into a little clinic wagon that we took out to the camps. I spoke to Paul Rogers, I said, “You know, we really need a more adequate clinic. If we had one on wheels, we could move out into the farmland.” He said, “Well, I don’t know whether the money can be used for that purpose but I’ll see what I can do,” and through his efforts once again, we got a beautiful forty-foot clinic trailer that was parked next to the health department in West Palm Beach. [Then-state senator Phil Lewis helped in obtaining a vehicle to pull the trailer]…
Paul Rogers, every time he came back here [from Washington], would always come to me, and we’d go out there [to the Glades] and see what was going on. Then he began to invite me to Washington to provide testimony and help him on a national bill, a Migrant Health Act. He got Sen. Harrison Williams of New Jersey … and all together we got this bill through [in 1962], sponsored by Rogers in the House and Williams in the Senate. It provided funds nationally for grants for health services for seasonal farm workers.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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