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Meaghan Lyver
/ Categories: CHC News Stories

Health Care Center In Middletown Expands

Construction is scheduled to begin in May on a three-story, 31,000-square-foot Community Health Center administration building in the North End.

The Knowledge and Technology Center will be built at the corner of Main and Grand streets, on the corner next to the 48,000-square-foot primary care medical building that opened in 2012. The two facilities will create a modern campus for the growing non-profit's flagship Middletown location.

Community Health Center provides health care services for 145,000 Connecticut residents in 206 locations, a large portion of them schools, domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters.

The largest area of growth for Community Health Center in the state has been in school-based health centers. Some of them offer a single service like dental care, while others offer medial, dental and behavioral health services.

"More important than the bricks and mortar effort is going wherever the people are, so we're in lots of schools," Community Health Center founder and CEO Mark Masselli said. "We provide really from kindergarten all the way through high school access to behavioral health services in schools and making it routine care. Children are facing lots of crises, and we want to make sure we have the support team in place there for them during their developmental years."

 Community Health Center Middletown
The Community Health Center in Middletown was chosen as one of a few in the country to participate in the early phase of a massive federal project to study the health habits of 1 million or more Americans.
Community Health Center also operates or participates in programs in 24 other states, everything from training of medical students and developing smartphone software to running health care outreach in rural New Mexico.

Slated to open next summer, the Knowledge and Technology Center will be the workplace for more than 80 people, many of them new hires as Community Health Center also takes on substantial projects in Hartford and Stamford.

Community Health Center has purchased and is renovating a 20,000-square-foot building in Stamford to meet demand there and a 25,000-square-foot building on New Britain Avenue in Hartford, part of the Connecticut Children's Medical Center where Community Health Center took over primary care operations last year. It is participating in a massive National Institutes of Health study and has developed training programs for nurse practitioners and medical assistants.

"The building will be the opportunity for us to pull together our technology and knowledge we've used here in Connecticut and use it as a platform for sharing those ideas," Masselli said. "It's also a place where we can learn from others. Our success at the health center has been learning from others and crosswalking those [ideas] over to the health environment. We're excited about it."

Masselli said the new center and its resources will allow Community Health Center to consolidate staff who are working on the organization's primary mission of improving access to health care and specialized treatment for poor and minority patients.

The new project at 631 Main St. is generally on the site of the old primary care clinic and will be for administrative employees only. All health care providers will remain at 675 Main St.

"We're recognized as specialists in delivery of these services in a primary care setting," Masselli said. "We also, through the Weitzman Institute, are engaged in helping practices access specialists. So often what we see are people going to their primary care physician who has so little resources and really aren't able to get access [to a specialist] because of lack of insurance or the waiting time, and our e-consults allow the primary care practitioner to get an answer to their questions within two business days."

The Community Health Center received Middletown planning and zoning commission approvals March 22. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Monday and will coincide with CHC's 45th anniversary.

"The Community Health Center has been a great partner for Middletown, and this proposal is a great proposal for Middletown," planning and zoning Commissioner Richard Pelletier said at the March 22 meeting.

The project in the North End, like its sister building finished in 2012, required some property acquisition and demolition on Grand Street. Masselli said the new center would have an open floor plan for its employees and would feature a two-story living wall.

Set back a bit from Main Street, the Knowledge and Technology Center does not include a small city-owned parcel directly on the Main and Grand corner. That lot is set to become a small park, at least temporarily, and remediation work to clean up the remnants of a former gas station is underway there. Past concepts would have incorporated that lot into a new project.

Planning and Zoning Chairman Stephen Devoto said the proposal is consistent with city goals and brings new people to the downtown area without taking away from the already-limited inventory of available retail space on Main Street.

Mayor Daniel Drew said the city has met with Community Health Center to review the plans, and said the project provides a positive investment for the neighborhood and the people who use the health care services the facilities provide.

"They serve a lot of people in the community, and it's another very strong addition to the North End," Drew said. "There are jobs there, but most importantly people get health care that they wouldn't have easily accessible otherwise. I don't think you can ever really quantify that impact."

The project has support from city leaders and the chamber of commerce, and means more growth for the North End. The new center will bring in another new influx of professionals and is estimated at about $17 million.

"This project will be an important economic and community development initiative for a critical Middletown neighborhood — the North End. The project's approval will continue to keep a strong employment force in the downtown area and encourage its future growth," Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce President Larry McHugh wrote in a letter to the planning and zoning commission.
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