Our Name and History

Supplying Hope for Nearly 150 Years 

Root Center for Advanced Recovery is a private, nonprofit, behavioral health care organization providing mental health and substance use prevention, treatment, community health services, and research. Originally established in 1871, the agency’s humble beginnings came in the form of an outpatient medical facility chartered specifically to provide medical services to the poor and indigent residing in the greater Hartford area.

In 1884, Dr. Joseph E. Root and Dr. M. Johnson offered a small back room to the organization for the use of an outpatient facility. A sign was soon added to the front of the Pearl Street office advertising the “Hartford Dispensary.” After a long and distinguished history of providing traditional medical, surgical, dental, and social services, the agency changed its focus in 1971 to the delivery of outpatient behavioral health care services.

Since that time, the agency has developed medication-assisted treatment services, substance use prevention programs, and infectious disease services. For many years, the agency has actively participated in pharmacological and behavioral research protocols. Presently, the Root Center treats more than 5,500 patients per day within its network of nine clinics across Connecticut. Over 6,800 individual persons receive services annually.

July 5, 1871
The General Assembly approves an act incorporating the Hartford Dispensary.
July 5, 1871
April 9, 1872
The Dispensary opens its doors to the general public in the Brownell building at the corner of Ann Street and Asylum Avenue. It becomes the first outpatient medical clinic in the state of Connecticut.
April 9, 1872
1874
The Dispensary moves to Hartford Hospital, although the hospital never considered the Dispensary a department or part of its facilities.
1874
1884
Dr. Joseph E. Root and Dr. M. Johnson discuss the need to continue to offer quality medical services to patients who can’t afford private medical care.
1884
December 8, 1884
Drs. Root and Johnson hang a sign in the front of their Pearl Street office reading “Hartford Dispensary.” During the first year of operation in one of the office’s back rooms, they treat 467 patients. They would go on to treat 516 patients in the second year and a record-breaking 1,454 patients during the first nine months of the third year.
December 8, 1884
September 1887
The Hartford Sunday Gazette suggests that the churches set aside the last Sunday of each year to raise money for the Dispensary. On the first “Dispensary Sunday,” nearly $350 is raised, reflecting the strong community support that the Dispensary received.
September 1887
Early 1900s
The Dispensary continues to grow in size and scope until it becomes one of Hartford’s most important community resources.
Early 1900s
1919
Dr. F. Heublein supplies the Dispensary with its first X-ray machine.
1919
1920s
The Dispensary is recognized by The Community Chest for its outstanding work with patients. In step with a city-wide movement in 1927, the Dispensary’s Social Services Department integrates and coordinates its activities with private and public health agencies.
1920s
1931
The Dispensary’s facilities are again renovated and expanded, allowing the organization to house more diagnostic services and employ additional staff. During the war emergency, the Dispensary serves an important function as a center for draft board exams. The organization also receives a commendation from President Truman for the valuable role it plays during the war.
1931
Late 1940s
Despite only employing a medical staff of 35 physicians and 12 dentists, the Dispensary remains open for anyone living in Hartford County who can’t afford the services of a private dentist or doctor. In 1949, a special donation of $5,000 from the Hartford Foundation of Public Giving enables the organization to renovate its dental clinic.
Late 1940s
1960
The Dispensary moves to 45 Retreat Ave., where it remains for the next 20 years. By this time, it is operating 30 clinics and features a staff of 25 doctors and 13 dentists, along with other supportive personnel. A fee of 50 cents is still the average charge for most clinic visits.
1960
1970
Responding to a critical unmet community need, the Dispensary’s Board of Directors decide to sponsor a health care program specifically and exclusively geared for the treatment of heroin addiction. At this time, Hartford is experiencing an acute heroin epidemic and treatment resources for addicts are virtually non-existent.
1970
1971
The Dispensary begins offering a methadone maintenance treatment program.
1971