The Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul made health care history when they came to St. Louis from Baltimore, Maryland, in 1828. They were renamed the Daughters of Charity in 1850. The hospital they founded in St. Louis was the first Catholic healthcare institution in the country, the first hospital west of the Mississippi, and the first hospital to be run by women. Since the time it was founded, DePaul Health Center served the sick and injured regardless of their ability to pay.
Changes in healthcare during the 1980s and 1990s made operating hospitals challenging. One change was the advent of managed healthcare plans, designed to improve efficiencies and increase competition as a way to curb costs. Another was the rise of alternate sites of care, including physician-owned sites. Such changes threatened the long term viability of independent hospitals like DePaul Health Center. Consequently, the Daughters of Charity (which had become a member of the Daughters of Charity National Health System – West Central) sold DePaul to the SSM Healthcare system, which, in turn, became the SSM’s largest health center.
The next big organizational change was in 1999, when Daughters of Charity National Health System – West Central joined Ascension Health. Ascension is a Catholic corporation whose sponsorship structure includes the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul, Province of St. Louise, Congregation of the Alexian Brothers, the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and the Sisters of St. Joseph as Participating Entities.
The Daughters of Charity Foundation, now known as Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis, is a legacy of the charitable works of the Daughters of Charity, now part of Ascension Healthcare. Today, the Foundation supports a broad range of initiatives to serve the poor and vulnerable, focusing on Seniors Living Independently, Immigrants & Refugees, Veterans, Youth Empowerment through Human Trafficking Prevention, and Capacity Building for grantee organizations. Its reach extends to the entire metropolitan statistical area of St. Louis—a total of 16 counties in Missouri and Illinois.