What began more than two decades ago as a part-time health services office in a small “white house” off Mansfield Avenue in Willimantic, has bloomed into a 32,000- square-foot geothermal facility.
And, it will allow Generations Family Health Center to improve both the quality and the quantity of the services it provides to local residents.
The new space will allow the health center to increase the number of unduplicated patients from 7,800 to 9,300.
Plus, it’s all theirs.
Administrators, staff, board members, legislators, community members and those otherwise invested in the healthcare facility, which serves under-insured and uninsured residents throughout Windham County, gathered at the new location at 40 Mansfield Ave. (between Main and Valley Streets) Thursday (Jan. 19) for a grand opening ceremony.
Generations actually began servicing patients at the new location Dec. 19, 2010.
For Generations Executive Director Arvind Shaw, the ribbon-cutting was a special day indeed.
“This is way too emotional for me,” said Shaw, reflecting on the journey during a tour of the facility before the ceremony.
Featuring dual access X-ray machines, centralized treatment areas and lots and lots of windows to let in natural light, the new facility rendered the previous rented location at 1315 Main St. cave-like in comparison.
In designing the new facility, Shaw said, they relied on feedback from the people who would be using it the most. “We listened to our staff and we listened to our patients,” said Shaw. “The patients wanted light.”
The $16 million facility was funded by a variety of sources, including a USDA loan, state dollars under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, New Market Tax Credits, as well as donations from foundations, corporations and individuals.
While the building was closed during Thursday’s event, most staff was on hand to share in the big day.
Dr. Margaret Ann Smith, chief dental officer, said her expanded workspace was much needed.
“It doubles the number of people we can take,” said Smith. “It’s beautiful, it’s efficient and the patients just love it.”
In addition to increasing the number of operatories from five to 10, the spacious new dental stations are designed to accommodate left-handed dentists and offer X-ray machines efficiently positioned between two adjacent stations for use by each.
Ken Maharan, a medical assistant who joined Generations a year ago, said the new space is much more professional than the old one. “When you get up in the morning and you like coming to work, it’s a lot of fun,” said Maharan.
Rebecca Antonucci, a medical receptionist, who has never worked in a public healthcare facility before, said the comparison is incredible.
“We do about everything we can to help anyone who needs it,” said Antonucci.
Along with this facility, Generations is also building a new 10,000- square-foot facility in Putnam and has offices in Danielson and Norwich. They also have three mobile stations.
In addition to medical and dental services, the facility also has a comprehensive behavioral health unit serving children and adults with individual and group therapy and medication management.
Dr. Irma Ross, chief of behavioral health, who just joined Generations after 32 years at Waterbury Hospital, said it was an opportunity she couldn’t resist.
Ross said the focus now is on providing comprehensive health care, which means addressing the whole individual and all of the health-related needs, physical and emotional.
“We are working on integrating medical and behavioral health,” said Ross, including an initiative to get young children in to see the dentist.
Some said the beautiful new facility, which gives no impression of a stereotypical “clinic” atmosphere, is exactly what they wanted.
“We are valuing the human being, having nothing to do with where they come from,” said Ross.
Carl Asikainen, who has been on the Generations Board of Directors for eight years, remembers when owning their own facility, where all the services could be consolidated into a one-stop shop for the patients and the staff, was still just a dream.
Even when the money started materializing, Asikainen said it was hard to imagine it would, one day, amount to what it has. “The people that we treat and the people that we serve deserve this as much as anyone else,” Asikainen said.
Legislators participating in Thursday’s groundbreaking included state Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D- Brooklyn, state Rep. Susan Johnson, D- Willimantic, and U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney, D-2nd District, while a slew of others joined the festivities, including state Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, making one of her first public appearances since suffering a mild stroke Christmas Day.
After opening at the “white house” on Mansfield Avenue, Generations opened a satellite office at the Windham Heights apartment complex, because that is where many of their patients lived.
Later, it moved to 1315 Main St., where it provided services until now.
“It’s miraculous,” said Dr. Morton Glasser, chief medical officer, who was there at the humble beginning and served patients on a part-time basis at the “white house” – then called the Windham Area Community Action Program (WACAP).
“This whole thing got started because the clientele we were serving were really underserved. Our mission is to serve people who can’t get care otherwise,” Glasser said.
“It’s really heartening to see that we’ve come this far,” he added. “It’s something our patients have deserved all along.”
Generations provides primary health, oral, and behavioral health care, case management and support services for people of all ages. It accepts Medicaid, Medicare, General Assistance, HUSKY, many managed-care programs and most insurance plans. It also offers a sliding fee scale and flexible payment arrangements for those who are eligible. It never turns anyone away for inability to pay.
To learn more, visit www.genhealth.org or call (860) 450-7471.
Posted Jan. 20, 2012
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