The Mariposa Community Health Center was founded in 1980 in response to the tremendous unmet need in Santa Cruz County.  Initially established as a clinical division of the Santa Cruz County Health Department, the vision was to establish a unique model of care that integrated primary medical care with traditional public health services.  The Health Center was originally staffed by a pediatrician and nurse practitioner and was located in a small building near downtown Nogales.

The Health Center was reorganized as a private, not for profit corporation in 1985.  The new organization was based on a model public-private partnership, whereby the Health Center provided virtually all public health services by contract with the county health department.  Lead by dedicated staff and a strong, supportive board of directors, we have grown along with the county and today, we have a main campus with state-of-the-art buildings and equipment in Nogales, plus satellite clinics in Patagonia, Rio Rico and Tubac.  As a one-stop shopping model of care delivery, we provide comprehensive primary medical and dental care supported by lab, digital x-ray, and mammography, ultrasound, telemedicine, a full-service pharmacy, an integrated behavioral health program, plus an extensive health promotion/disease prevention department.

Over 300 dedicated staff members support Mariposa and our mission of service in the community.

Our History


Recognizing the extraordinarily high rate of infant mortality in Santa Cruz County, which peaked in 1987 at 12.8 deaths per 1,000 births and averaged about 12 per 1,000 for that last half of that decade, Mariposa develops a multi-disciplinary team to combat this concerning rate. The team was comprised of physicians, an ob/gyn nurse practitioner, a nurse case manager and several community health workers. As access to early, high quality prenatal care improved in the community, the infant mortality rate was reduced to 3.0 – 3.5/1,000 by the mid-1990s.


In 1985, a new private, non-profit corporation called Santa Cruz Community Inc. forms, along with a formal, dedicated, community-based Board of Directors. After separating from the County as a private corporation, the public-private partnership between Mariposa and the County became an extremely innovative organizational model unlike any other in the country. By integrating funding, as well as programs, a more efficient and effective model of care is developed that embraced not only improving access to primary medical care, but a much broader concept of health care that included disease prevention strategies. Through this integration, Mariposa becomes the first community health center in the country to assume responsibility for providing county public health services.


Initially named Santa Cruz Family Health Services, Inc., Mariposa begins in 1980 as a clinical division of the Santa Cruz County Health Department in an effort to integrate traditional public health services with primary care and provide access to affordable primary care to the low-income, uninsured residents of the County. Mariposa’s humble beginnings were in a dilapidated facility originally built by County inmates to house the County’s public health programs.

Claudia & James R. Welden
Claudia & James R. Welden

What has become an extraordinarily innovative and nationally recognized Community Health Center had its beginnings in the late 1970s. Dr. Tad Pfister, the health officer for the Santa Cruz County Health Department, recognized that there was a tremendous need in the County to make primary medical care available to everyone regardless of their economic circumstances. To that end, he set out to find the funding. Dr. Pfister learned of a federal health initiative that provided grant funding to start primary care clinics in medically under-served and rural areas. Dr. Pfister submitted the grant in 1979 to begin this new project as part of the County Health Department. When Dr. Pfister was notified that the funding was received in early 1980, he contacted James R. Welden and asked him to spearhead and implement an innovative new County medical program. Originally from Texas, Welden and his wife, Claudia, had lived in Nogales in the mid-70s and were then working in Tucson. Welden assessed the potential of the project and its goals and chose to accept the opportunity. As the story will tell, this opportunity has become a legacy attributed to the founding Chief Executive Officer, James R. Welden.