New health clinic marks ‘historic day for Lake County’

Frank Abderholden
fabderholden@stmedianetwork.com | @abderholden
July 18 6 a.m.

The clinic is open

A Family Fun Day will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 19, at the Erie HealthReach Waukegan Health Center, 2323 Grand Ave., Waukegan.

There will be free parking, refreshments, a disc jockey, face painting and kid’s games in addition to tours of the facility.

To make an appointment, call (847) 666-3494. For more information, visit click here.

It’s estimated that out of the over 700,000 residents in Lake County, there are about 150,000 who lack access to health and dental care.

Some of those people will now be able to get treatment at the new Erie HealthReach Waukegan Health Center, located inside an old bank at 2323 Grand Ave., Waukegan.

“This started with a need that isn’t going away anytime soon,” said Lee Francis, president and CEO of Chicago-based Erie Family Health Center.

The clinic was made possible through a partnership that includes the Erie Family Health Centers, the former free clinic HealthReach, Lake County Health Department, Vista Health System, Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County and North Shore Gas.

The project also received a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Affordable Care Act. Support also will come from tax credits and traditional loans through Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., Enterprise Community Loan Fund and Chase.

The Thursday grand opening in Waukegan marked Erie’s 13 health center partnership and the organization’s second outside of Chicago.

Francis praised HealthReach’s history of care before the partnership, and expressed excitement about the new state-of-the-art facility for the medically underserved in Lake County.

“We have big shoes to fill,” he said.

Waukegan Mayor Wayne Motley said it took him about 30 seconds to be on board with the project.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to see all the support here. It took vision, courage and commitment,” he said.

The new facility offers 24 exam rooms, two behavioral exam rooms, a procedure room, a lab, five dental suites and two employee lounges that are housed in the bank’s old vault and safety deposit room. Both still have the safety deposit boxes.

Organizers estimate the clinic will be able to serve about 10,000 people.

“That still leaves a lot who don’t have health or dental care,” said Nancy Bock, the executive director of the former HealthReach clinic.

She called the partnership with Erie special and said the new clinic was the way to go.

“We’re incorporating the best of both worlds,” Bock said.

Former state Rep. Susan Garrett started a blue ribbon committee a decade ago to address the problem of an underserved community.

“For me, this is a dream come true,” she said on Thursday. “And the best is yet to come.”

Thomas McAfee, president of the Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, said the hospital helped facilitate the merger with a $3 million grant to support operations over a five-year period.

“It’s truly a historic day for Lake County. This will be a portal to access care and a higher quality of life,” McAfee said.

The hospital also plans to start a program next year in which Northwestern medical students in the hospital’s residency program will work at the clinic to sharpen their skills.

“There continues to be a need for more primary care services in Lake County,” he said. “Erie HealthReach and the Northwestern McGaw Family Medicine Residency Program will help address this need.”

Patients will receive care regardless of where they live, insurance status, age or ability to pay. The clinic will provide prenatal care, pediatric care, women’s health services, adult care, dental services for children and pregnant women, access to specialty care and access to low-cost medications. There also is a room for health education and a children’s playroom.

The clinic is a federal-qualified health center and will employ 40 people at full capacity.

“It just feels calming and welcoming and that’s the atmosphere we want for our patients,” said Cheryl Schutte, director of the clinic.

The clinic is open

A Family Fun Day will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 19, at the Erie HealthReach Waukegan Health Center, 2323 Grand Ave., Waukegan.

There will be free parking, refreshments, a disc jockey, face painting and kid’s games in addition to tours of the facility.

To make an appointment, call (847) 666-3494. For more information, visit click here.

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